The Future of Dining Practices
Johannes Schöning is a professor of computer science with a focus on HCI at Hasselt University, working within the Expertise centre for Digital Media (EDM) – the ICT research institute of Hasselt University. He has been interested in how new technologies can enhance the dining experience. His current research is exploring how augmented reality, 3D graphics and mobile applications can be used to add a new dimension to food.
In 2050 Apple will create food and phones. Current research in the field of pervasive computing is embedding more and more computational power in a diversity of devices and objects. By doing so it enables many different kinds of novel applications. To augment food with digital processing power has rarely been considered, yet there is much scope for researchers chefs, technologists, artists, designers, and philosophers to explore the opportunities that arise, when food and digital technology are combined.
A main focus will be to enhance the sensory experience of eating and dining through technology by creating new sensations. Below are two examples of how technology has been used to digitally create or enhance food, providing a technology-centric view on the future of dining practices:
Food replicators The idea of replicating food through technology has frequently appeared in science fiction. We are now beginning to see such ideas turn into reality, made possible by new advances in pervasive technologies. For example, researchers have adapted 3D printers to print edible food (http://goo.gl/YTi0w), such as the Choc Creator, developed by Liang Hao in cooperation with the University of Brunel (http://goo.gl/wwe0b), to create 3D chocolates. Instead of
adding different materials such as plastic, layer
by layer, to create a solid object from a digital 3D model, they use an edible material. Another example is the CandyFab 3D printer, which can create 3D models by caramelizing sugar (http://wiki.candyfab.org). Similarly, researchers at MIT have presented a concept for a Food printer named Cornucopia. Laser cutting has also been used for etching food, such as names on biscuits (see figure on the left).
Meta-Cookies and eSweets The taste and perception of food can also be transformed and distorted through new technologies. For example, the Meta cookie combines a head-mounted display (HMD) with an olfactory display to present different cupcakes to the users, even though there is really only one cookie, tagged with an AR code. The ‘deception’ works by the cookie being tracked and overlaid with various cupcakes in the user’s HMD. The HMD also covers the nose and provides a smell depending on the selected cupcake. This setup was used to modify perception of satiety and controlling nutritional intake by changing the apparent size of food with augmented reality.
In my talk, I presented a number of other examples of how we can embed computational functionality into our food in innovative ways. It wont be long before we will not only be talking about digitally enhancing flavour but also how much processing power we have in our puddings.