Jul 8, 2016 | By Tess

As a food lover, the idea of virtual reality dining strikes me as a bit odd, and to be honest, not entirely appetizing. But, while I’d personally prefer to bite into a real slice of pizza or munch on a physical chocolate bar, there is something to be said for a recent endeavour called Project Nourished. The innovative project, developed by a Los Angeles based team of scientists, digital designers, food connoisseurs, and engineers, is seeking to examine and explore the way humans ingest and experience food through a virtual reality setup.

Project Nourished essentially consists of a number of VR devices, including a VR headset, an aromatic diffuser designed to emit specific food smells, a bone conduction transducer which goes around the back of your head and mimics the sounds and feeling of chewing, a virtual cocktail glass, and a gyroscopic utensil. What will you actually be eating? 3D printed food made from agar agar, a jelly like substance made from algae, which will serve as a “vehicle for articulating taste, texture and consistency".

The gist of the project is to transport people while they sit at the dining table to anywhere in the world and to let them taste a wide variety of flavours and foods, all the while actually chewing on a piece of bland and calorie-less 3D printed jelly. You could be sitting on a beach eating a fruity concoction, or in an otherworldly setting eating a hamburger.

Interestingly, the whole project was inspired by a scene from the 1991 children’s film Hook starring Robin Williams as an aged Peter Pan. In the scene, Robin Williams turns a whole table of empty plates and bowls into a rich feast using only his imagination to the delight of all around him. While Project Nourished is a few steps beyond just imagination, the principle is similar.

While some of the obvious applications for Project Nourished (i.e. weight loss) are a bit problematic, because it does not include the consumption of any real calories and consequently no nutrients, the team behind the project has presented some other potential uses for it which are a bit more novel. For instance, they hope that their technology could help benefit people recovering from eating disorders, or people with severe food allergies, or even diabetes. For patients with physical disabilities as well, such as those who have suffered strokes and are unable to chew properly, Project Nourished could offer a more enjoyable food related experience, while the nutrients could be absorbed in alternative ways. This could also be useful for people like astronauts, whose food intake is limited.

Of course, Project Nourished isn’t quite available yet, as the team are still working on improving their technology. According to Jinsoo An, the founder of the project, they are currently working on perfecting a menu consisting of sushi, steak, lasagna, and pie, ideal foods for the project because of their simple forms. The potentials for foods and flavours are virtually limitless, however, especially as the flavours are carried primarily through scent, which can be chemically modified and customized. An says that his team has been working on new flavour scents called Spirits of Nordic Sea, Space Dust, and Phantasy Zone, a mixture of bubble gum, grass, banana, mango, watermelon, and sweet pea flower compounds.

If you’re interested in Project Nourished, a “smell module” starter pack is available for pre-order (for $59.84) and is expected to ship out this summer. According to the team, the whole kit, with devices included will be available later in the year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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