Food: Virtual reality is changing the way you eat

April 21, 2016 5:05 AM (UTC+8)

 

The Matrix is real and it’s here.

A new kind of culinary experience has taken over the world. And this is how it works: You are eating lasagne with extra cheese. A burp at the end of the meal suggests that you are content. You happily get off the table without regretting the calories consumed. This is because the cheese wasn’t real nor was the lasagne. What you ate was possibly a healthy chunk of newfangled muchies derived from agar, konjac jelly and gum Arabic, which mimic foods such as steak, lasagne, pies and sushi.

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Jinsoo An (centre) and his team at Kokiri Lab at work.

The company that creates this unique gastronomical experience is Los-Angeles based Kokiri Lab, founded by the South Korean entrepreneur Jinsoo An. He calls this experience ‘Project Nourished.’ The company’s website confirmed that it will go live by by summer of 2016.

Leveraging the virtual reality wave, Kokiri is working with food scientists, developmental chefs and sensory perception researchers to change the way we eat food. Project Nourished’s virtual reality kit consists of six components: An aromatic diffuser to dissipate the smell of various foods using ultrasonic and heat; a virtual reality headset to provide visual simulation of environment and alter the aesthetics of food; a bone conduction transducer, which mimics the chewing sounds that are transmitted from the diner’s mouth to ear drums via soft tissues and bones; a gyroscopic utensil to allow the diner’s physical movement to be translated into virtual reality; a virtual cocktail glass with built-in sensors for beverage and creating simulated intoxication, and 3D-printed food, which serves as a vehicle for articulating taste, texture and consistency. The emulsifiable and low caloric properties make hydrocolloid the perfect base.

“Our perception of a meal relies upon different sensory input derived from the visuals, flavors, scents, textures, consistency and auditory feedback of what we eat. By isolating various flavor compounds and recreating their taste and textural profiles—coupled with virtual reality, aromatic diffusion and auditory sensation—we can mimic a surprising amount of eating experience,” the company said in its website.

Besides the healthy food part, Project Nourished also aims at offering customers a state-of-the-art fine dining experience. The virtual reality kit comes with a downloadable 360° VR video of unique themes. You can either eat your dinner up above the sky among the stars or by the side of the beach enjoying the tidal breeze.

Companies like Samsung too have gotten into the culinary virtual reality space. This could mean a lot of changes in the way restaurants serve their customers.

The company in its blog post said that using Samsung Gear VR, food joints can take th sensory experience of dining to a new level. “While there is a wow factor to using this cutting-edge technology, the impact of virtual reality is a natural fit for restaurants that want to create a complete experience around a meal, not just serve a plate of food,” said Samsung.

“When launching a virtual reality experience at your restaurant, the first consideration is what type of overall experience is needed for diners, and how to integrate all five sense. Once this is established, the restaurant plans out the meal. It is important that the food remains the focal point, and that the effects used only enhance the overall dining experience. Both the overall experience and the food should be drivers for all the other artistic and technological decisions for the event,” said Samsung in its blog post.

Brands like McDonald are taking baby steps in embracing virtual reality. Recently, the fast-food giant in Sweden offered a limited run of ‘Happy Goggles,’ VR headsets that are made from folding Happy Meal boxes.

While the VR dining concept is brilliant and visually spectacular for commercial needs, it remains to be seen how affordable the idea will turn out to be, particularly if it were to reach out to your homes.

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