Chocolate, New Sense

Le Laboratoire Cambridge features a restaurant, the Cafe ArtScience. The restaurant's bar features a glass-globed drink vaporizer called Le Whaf. Andrea Shea/WBUR

Le Laboratoire Cambridge features a restaurant, the Cafe ArtScience. The restaurant’s bar features a glass-globed drink vaporizer called Le Whaf. Andrea Shea/WBUR

Thanks to National Public Radio’s program, the salt, for this idea on how we can expect to enjoy chocolate in new ways in the future:

David Edwards has been called a real-life Willy Wonka. The biomedical engineer has developed, among other things, inhalable chocolate, ice cream spheres in edible wrappers, and a device called the “oPhone,” which can transmit and receive odors.

Edwards is based at Harvard, but much of his work has been done in Paris, at a facility he calls Le Laboratoire. Now he’s opened a similar “culture lab” closer to home: Le Laboratoire Cambridge in Cambridge, Mass.

Cultural Research And Development

“Many of the questions that we face today — questions of innovation, of change — are not really questions we can deal with in a classical science lab,” Edwards says. “And I think that’s why culture labs are showing up increasingly around the world. By opening the creative process up to the public, it leads to a better understanding of how the world’s changing, and why it’s actually thrilling that it is.”

Edwards has been inviting scientists, designers, composers, artists and chefs to collaborate on projects the public can experience as the work develops.

This open lab, a kind of cultural research and development effort, grew out of Edwards’ earlier work: The biomedical engineer helped pioneer aerosol prescription drug delivery systems for patients with diseases like Parkinson’s. After selling his company, Edwards applied the technology and the profits to chocolate delivery, calling it Le Whif.

“We’ve done a lot around ‘air food’ and other kinds of nutritional experiences that are without calories, that are all-natural, that are portable. And there’s no liquid and all kinds of benefits,” he says.

Or, instead of nutrition, how about a buzz? After Le Whif came Le Whaf, a machine that turns liquid — quite often alcohol — into fluffy clouds of consumable gas.

An Incubator For Unconventional Innovation

Boston Globe technology columnist Scott Kirsner, who visited Edwards at the Laboratoire in Paris, says, “People come in off the street and say, ‘What exactly is this? Can I buy something here?’ ”

Edwards takes great delight in explaining the concepts to visitors, Kirsner says. “I think he kind of does have that enjoyment of — you can’t really put your finger on what is he trying to do and what is the point of it, exactly.”

Kirsner thinks the Laboratoire fills a void in a landscape loaded with incubators trying to create the next Facebook or Twitter.

“If he’s creating a place where you can develop a new food product, or, you know, spawn some new nonprofit or some new cultural group, that’s an interesting incubator to me,” Kirsner says. “Because it’s not just saying, ‘Let’s just create new public companies that are gonna be worth billions.’ It’s saying, you know, ‘Let’s create healthier foods that maybe could be distributed without refrigeration in the developing world, and let’s do cultural innovation.’ And not a lot of people are saying that.

Where Our Senses Can Take Us

The lab in Cambridge is also collaborating with MIT’s Dalai Lama Center and a cartilage expert to explore how sound and vibration affect our minds and bodies.

Read the whole article here.

One thought on “Chocolate, New Sense

  1. Pingback: Chocolate’s Guardian Angels | Raxa Collective

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