Grapes are a fun food to eat. The tiny spheres seem so smooth and simple—little flavorless orbs. Then they burst between your teeth with sweet, juicy goop. But what if, each time you touched a grape, it also made a little “boop” sound? And as you chewed, you heard bubbles popping in your ears?
That’s the delightful premise behind Sonic Seasoning, the graduation project of RCA student Mengtian Zhang. Inspired by ASMR—the tingling sensation people can get from certain sounds (and most recently, a slew of therapeutic YouTube videos)—it’s a plate and cutlery set that adds all sorts of sounds to the foods you eat, with the hopes of enhancing their flavor.
The project was inspired by Zhang’s own COVID-19 lockdown experience, in which she turned to ASMR cooking videos to calm herself. As for many other people, hearing the exaggerated sounds of someone else cooking or eating their meal can create a sense of satisfaction and social connection, even through a simple YouTube window.
“I can feel the texture and flavor of food such as crunchiness and freshness behind the phone screen,” says Zhang. “So I was thinking, Could we use sound and visual effects to enhance our taste and build expectations before eating?”