Before we even take a bite of that tasty dessert on the table, the anticipation assisted by our visual apparatus (our eyes) sends the signal to the brain. This is a way of nature to trigger the mechanical digestion in the mouth and the gut. Add the element of sound to the tasty mix and the treat is destined to be headed down the bliss route. The crisp sound of chewing the waffles or biting down on the strawberry – everything that you eat has the sound element which triggers the brain into nirvana.

The Sonic Seasoning by graduation project of RCA student Mengtian Zhang is a unique creation centered on the satisfying sensory experience of listening to ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) sounds even before we take a bite. This project culminated from Mengtian’s pandemic-induced lockdown experience when she took to watching ASMR cooking videos to remain stress-free. “I can feel the texture and flavor of food such as crunchiness and freshness behind the phone screen.” There Mengtian was struck with the idea of using sound and visual effects to elevate the buildup expectations of taste before the first bite hits the mouth. This resulted in the set of plates and cutlery connected to sensors for detecting touch which then triggers the appropriate notes to go with the whole eating experience.

Unique isn’t it? In her setup the tools like a scoop or toothpick-like poker measure the applied force, reacting with a pitch/chord. There’s a finger bowl dubbed “seasoning device” which plays the ambient sounds of crunches or bubbling when the food is dipped inside. “I think the whole eating experience should be full of fun at first, and then people will focus on the sense of taste changing subtly with sound,” says Zhang. Interestingly, she found out that these sensory inputs can enhance the perception of the food’s taste even though it might not be that tasty. A perfect case for serving a very low sugar diet, but still perceiving it to be a lot sweeter than it actually is.

Zhang wants to take her creation to a point where she collaborates with a restaurant or science museum to serve food with a completely unique element. As she summed it up appropriately, “I hope the funny part of the work could reduce the pain of having a diet.”

Designer: Mengtian Zhang

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