Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could sit down to a 5 course meal whenever you wanted, enjoying every mouthful, but not suffering the effects of the calorific intake. It’s every food lover’s dream, to be able to eat anything and everything you like without feeling regret, guilt or an expanding waistline.
Even better, what if each course could be in a different location around the world, and you didn’t have to leave your seat to travel.
It may sound like a fantasy, but this is the vision of a group of revolutionaries who are experimenting with virtual reality and food. The ambitious concept is driven from a desire to enhance our dining experiences and bring food into a new dimension.
Picnic With A Dinosaur
Project Nourished started in 2015 to create an experience where food and virtual reality could be combined to create a unique dining experience. Using a combination of technical gadgets including a virtual reality headset, food detection utensils and 3d printed food our sensors can be led to believe that they experiencing something completely different to reality.
Let’s consider someone who is totally nuts about prehistoric times and loves everything dinosaur related. Using the technology from Project Nourished it would be possible to program the VR headset to simulate an environment reminiscent of Jurassic Park. The user could be presented with a herd of Diplodocus ambling through a forest or be surrounded by Triceratops while sitting down to a picnic.
Using a virtual cocktail glass, food related gadgets and 3d printed food the picnic could consist of foods native to that time period, or foods that we imagine may have existed back then.
This combination of technology is only limited by our imagination and willingness to try anything and everything new.
Turn Broccoli Into Dill Pickle and Dine In New York
The team at Project Nourished are still developing their technologies and have only a couple of the components available for pre-order at the moment. However, if you’re impatient and want to try the idea of virtual reality eating, it’s still possible.
By combining a pair of virtual reality glasses and a molecular gastronomy solution the same experience can be achieved in a DIY fashion.
There are several virtual reality glasses for consumers on the market already, and no doubt more to follow shortly. Take a pick between the Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and the Microsoft Hololens headsets. All of these virtual reality emulators will transport you to wherever and whenever you wish, all at the press of a button.
With your virtual reality environment taken care of you now need something to make the food experience just as exciting. The aromafork can do just that, turning ordinary food into mouth-watering delicacies.
Created by Molecule-R their aroma forks and spoons include a diffuser that emits a an aroma to trick the sensors into thinking it is eating something other than what it is. There are over 70 different aromas in the range, from fruit and nut flavours to barbeque, snack and spicy flavours, there’s even a couple of alcohol flavours too.
By designing your own virtual experience you could turn something as uninspiring as broccoli into dill pickle, cheesecake or strawberries, eaten anywhere in the world.
What’s The Catch?
Whenever you hear something that sounds too good to be true, it often is. It’s natural to be sceptical and look for the hidden catch. With new or unproven technology it’s important to consider the risks and any potential side effects.
Are virtual reality dining experiences going to change food and dining as we know it?
The ability to believe you are eating whatever you want while actually eating healthy nutritious food creates a great solution for those with allergies, weight management issues or health concerns. No longer do you feel deprived of the foods you love but are unable to eat.
The same can be said for the elderly, small children or people with certain medical conditions where eating certain types of foods can be a struggle. Now nutritious 3d printed food can be presented as something a lot more appealing and in a format that is easier to consume.
The environmental impacts of the types of food used should also not be underestimated. Whether it’s food produced using 3d printing technology, or other food substitute products, it’s possible to use more sustainable sources that reduce the environmental impact on the earth. Consider a ‘meat’ patty made from algae and other plant products used to simulate real beef.
Creating Virtual Reality Connections
Aside from the food considerations there is also the social factors to consider. For those who normally dine alone or travel on a regular basis, virtual reality experiences have the benefit of allowing solo diners to immerse themselves in an environment where they don’t have to dine alone. Maybe this could also be the end to difficult long distance relationships? Sit down to dinner, slip on your VR headset, add a microphone headset and it could be as if your long-distant lover is right next to you.
On the flipside, for those that normally socialise over a meal, this virtual reality technology has the potential to alienate each diner from the others. Would you want to sit down to a meal where each diner was in their own virtual reality bubble?
On a wider scale, if virtual reality dining takes off, will ‘normal’ dining be considered boring and undesirable? Will fantasy dining become more of an addiction where we continually seek to better the previous experience? Will we lose the simplicity of dining where human connection and interaction form a key part of the experience? And will such experiences be accessible only to those with the funds to purchase the technology?
The combination of virtual reality and molecular gastronomy bring endless possibilities. The only trouble with endless possibilities is what to order off the menu. Will it be the carpaccio with Dinosaurs or BBQ prawns on the beach whilst watching the sun go down? Tough choice.