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Designers create music-making ice cream activated by licks

Designers Carla Diana and Emilie Baltz have created ice-cream that can be played as an instrument.

Lickestra — 3D-printed ice cream cones embedded with sensors that create music. Credit: Lickestra Lickestra — 3D-printed ice cream cones embedded with sensors that create music.
Credit: Lickestra

The greatest taste experiences can feel like sweet music, and one of mankind’s favourite treats can now provide a soundtrack.

Designers Carla Diana and Emilie Baltz have created ice-cream that can be played as an instrument, with tongue-activated sensors in a 3-D printed cone sending signals to a computer that plays "sounds reminiscent of winter icicles and slippery surfaces." We asked them about it.

Metro: What considerations are there when matching a foodstuff to a music experience?

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Baltz: Our goal with performative food experiences is to study the relationship between the senses. It is challenging to say there is a 'should' involved in pairing sound with food. Anything can be paired with anything — the interesting piece is the resulting emotion that is created from the mixture. Food is such a subjective, complex experience that each person reacts differently. The area of interest with this work is to allow users to test the relationship between their own senses.

How do you feel that stimulating one sense — taste or hearing — can enhance the other?

Diana: The impact of amplifying one sense (taste) by stimulating another (sound) was a core question we were exploring with the 'Lickestra.' Our hypothesis was that the touch sensations involved in eating ice cream, such as feeling temperature, texture and wetness, along with the taste sensations around fat, cream and sugar, would be heightened. That is, we guessed that people would become more aware of the elements of the sensations, and therefore have a more intense experience. When the performances were done, we definitely found this to be the case.

Baltz: Multisensory stimulation creates a more robust human experience, which creates more memorable experiences. That said, making a carrot 'crunchier' may certainly affect our perception of its freshness and its 'good taste,' but when such stimulation is unexpected, the mind can go to a totally new place, beyond the senses. 'Lickestra' creates an other worldly relationship between taste and sound, which in turn not only stimulates these senses, but also the imagination. This certainly enhances our sensory perception, but it also enhances the limits of our imagination.

What other foodstuffs do you think would work well with musical accompaniment?

Baltz: We tried Marzipan, dough, cocktails, sodas and even the rogue jar of peanut butter (which did not work!). Seeing as music is a rhythmic experience, the foodstuffs that beg repetitive actions (like licking!) for their ingestion are perfectly suited. We could also imagine popsicles, slurpy liquids and even the old bobbing for apples ritual, would all be great ways to engage sound and food.

Diana: Anything that can conduct electricity would work really well. Water is an excellent conductor, so wetter foods such as pastes and pâtés are most ripe for exploration. We also plan to play around with liquids – orchestral cocktails are definitely in our plans for the future.

How do you see this concept evolving - will there be anything like this in common usage in 2020?

Diana: Right now the 'Lickestra' provides a sensation that's quite new, but restaurants in 2020 might offer the multi-sensory meal as part of their overall concepts. We would like to think that a meal can be a full sensory experience, and sonic foods as well as foods that morph, vibrate or become illuminated, will be a part of it.

 
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