July 20, 2024


Science It Works

Welcome to the Very Real World of Cyber Food

Researchers at Monash University have developed an edible way to demonstrate the basics of computer science, through a dish that can have its flavour programmed called a Logic Bonbon.

Uh, Monash Uni, what are you doing to food now?

We’ve seen a lot of innovations in the culinary world in tandem with tech innovations. Right now, you can pick up just about any kitchen appliance with smart home integration, you can buy yourself a fridge with a see-through door and you can even be served food by a robot in some parts of the world.

Now, Monash wants to bring science and innovation to your plate with a Logic Bonbon, a type of food that lets you choose the flavour through basic computer science.

No, this isn’t robot food, it’s food-food! Fully digestible human food made up of a pre-made hollow bonbon and a non-edible base, the Logic Bonbon includes fluid reservoirs that pump flavour fluids up into the Bonbon. Whatever flavour you’re craving, the Logic Bonbon will produce it through logic gates, provided that flavour is producible through the attached fluid dispensers.

On the top, users can see what food they’ve created with the fluids via the fluid dispensers, like mixing paints to create new ones.

I’m sorry, that all read a bit like a science-fiction dystopia, didn’t it? A bit like Half-Life 2 or perhaps Snowpiercer. Well, look, the good news is that researchers at Monash University have pulled it off, and that it could have real applications.

“Over the course of three months, we tested the system with 10 participants, allowing them to sense, experiment and ‘play’ with the Logic Bonbons, filling it with different flavour combinations which they could consume,” says Jialin Deng, from Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology. She’s also the lead author of the paper exploring Logic Bonbons.

“Through their interactions with the Logic Bonbons, the participants tangibly experience and learn about logic operations and are essentially creating a mini edible computer that requires an input, performs computation and results in different combinations of outputs while displaying different emoticons and flavours, allowing the user to experience what computation ‘tastes’ like.”

What this means is that food, through things like these Logic Bonbons, can now be an effective way of teaching computational, boolean inputs. That is, working with binaries (in terms of the logic gates, “Open” or “Closed”) to create flavours of food.

Will we see it rolled out to restaurants across Australia? Probably not, at least not for several years, but Monash reckons that this could lead to restaurants providing more unique hospitality experiences with their food. Science is coming for you, chefs.

You can read the paper here.