New augmented reality technology leads to better eating habits

A food’s actual taste consists of a fusion of the smell, touch, and texture all in a single sensation.

Japanese scientist and professor Takuji Narumi used virtual reality technology to change the physical appearance of food to see how it affected eating habits.

“Food hacking means brain hacking to me,” Narumi said in an interview with cnet.com. “How do we create new eating experiences by manipulating the senses in our brains? To make food taste different by changing humans instead of food, that’s the most interesting to me.”

Started in 1994, VICE is a youth media company and digital content creation studio. A new series on VICE’s food channel “Munchies” called “Food Hacking” explored the possibilities of the technology.

Swedish host Simon Klose used a pair of special virtual-reality goggles while holding an actual cookie in the first episode of the series. Through the goggles, the researchers are first able to make that cookie bigger or smaller.

“Food that is virtually enlarged to be 50 percent bigger leads to 10 percent less consumption, while food that is virtually shrunk to 30 percent its size makes people eat 15 percent more,” Narumi said.

According to the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University a visual perception bias called the Delboeuf Illusion influences what portions are consumed depending on the size of the plate in which it is presented.

Narumi has his own twist on this. It involves a large table with a built in display designed to change the size of the virtual plate depending on what food is placed on it.

The official Munchies website stated that Food Hacking re-imagined how people cook and eat. Host Simon Klose explored food prepared by activists, techies, and even robots as he took a close look food disruptors who mapped out new boundaries of Japanese cuisine.

Although the technology Narumi made is in its infancy, as wearing large bulky goggles in order to perceive a different food and smell may be impractical, large industries took interest in the future of the product.

“When we displayed this at a computer graphics conference in the US,” Narumi said, “NASA approached us and said that they really wanted to try this. So in the future, this could also be used for space food.”