A digital doughnut available in augmented reality. Image: Fresh Hot Delicious/Instagram

Digital food is here, so you may as well get used to it. The recent boom in online food-based media has changed how we look at food online and seek out new restaurants, reviews, and recipes. We want to add new flavors and try new foods. Digital food is one way to make this even easier.

There’s no consensus about what the term “digital food” really means. To some, it’s the sharing of images of food on social media to represent culture, calories, presentation, preparation, and taste. A plethora of food bloggers show status by filling our social feeds with images of perfectly arranged gustatory delights. Food can be basic, or it can be luxurious and exclusive. By showing specific types of food, we can signify ourselves as being a specific type of person.

Through this “digital food,” we can use new technologies to explore and represent who we are. Augmented reality (AR) provides a unique way to experience digital food. AR experiences by artists such as Robbie Conceptuel on Instagram allow you to become the food itself. With his filter, Bubble Tea, available on Instagram, your face is transformed into a trendy drink, and jelly bubbles pour out of your mouth when you open wide. With another filter, Papaya, your body is transformed into a tropical fruit that floats in nature.

Conceptuel describes digital food as a way to better connect with his audience and reduce waste: “I use food to make inanimate objects alive. And, it’s also universal. We all played with food when we were babies; I’m just playing without waste.”

Bubble Tea by Robbie Conceptuel
Papaya by Robbie Conceptuel

Designers also create photo-realistic 3D food models specifically for AR. Design company QReal has created several AR experiences, such as Lobster, an Instagram filter where a user can place a photorealistic 3D model of a lobster with macaroni and cheese on a flat surface.

It’s also already possible to order food using augmented reality. AR company Kabaq has partnered with Snapchat to offer users the ability to view a Domino’s pizza in AR, then order that pizza online. Ordering food in AR allows us to see examples of what our food will look like before we see it in real life. When the already popular Uber Eats eventually adopts AR within its app, it is likely there will be a surge in orders, if only for the initial novelty alone. By using what is known as persistent AR, you could share the same digital food with another person or share the ordering process with a group of people.

The future of food could also exist in digital restaurants. I used Instagram to create Fresh Hot Delicious, a completely digital restaurant specializing in digital desserts. Each dessert exists as a freely available AR filter on Instagram. To simulate a real-world restaurant, the desserts “sell out” when the AR filters reach a specific number of views. Users can play with the desserts for free until they are “sold out” and become deactivated. In this way, the digital restaurant gives a life span to previously permanent digital objects.

Rustic Bread with Figs and Goat’s Cheese. Edible digital food in AR by Fresh Hot Delicious.
Fruit Tart. Digital food in AR by Fresh Hot Delicious.

While most digital food is realistic, there is room for fantastical and otherworldly food experiences. While digital food cannot yet be physically devoured or owned, it taps into the current trend in AR to create surreal, impossible experiences. Digital food can be funny, satirical, or political, as seen with Peached by Beth Wickerson. Digital food facilitated by AR goes beyond the real to focus on a different type of sensory play that is completely new.

I reached out to Wickerson, and she described to me how she capitalized on the communicative potential of digital food: “I knew that replacing the viewer’s head with a peach would have a comedic effect, so I liked the idea of people using it in a humorous way, hopefully adding some laughter to the subject. What I didn’t expect was for people to use it for just that aspect alone, the humor of having a peach for a head, and I think that is what has made it my most popular effect.”

Peached, a political AR digital food experience by Beth Wickerson

Our brains are wired to experience “visual hunger,” defined as the desire to view beautiful images of food, which leads to an increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone that prepares our body to eat. This evolutionary adaptation likely came from a time when seeing food (a far rarer occurrence before the modern age) meant we were about to eat. What’s more, we have a preference for viewing images of high-calorie food. The fact that our brains are attuned to images of beautiful food is partly why food media has become so successful on digital platforms.

Experiencing digital food in AR lends itself well to sensory science research. For example, scientists at the University of Tokyo say the amount of food we consume can be affected by the apparent size of our servings. This changes how satisfied we feel after a meal. AR can also be used to experiment with how we perceive food structure and texture, such as crispness, flakiness, or softness.

Some scientific research groups have even replicated basic taste sensations — such as sweet, salty, sour, and bitter — through a “digital taste interface” which applies electrical and thermal stimulation to the tongue. Using a cathodal current, researchers created and experienced new kinds of flavors. It is only a matter of time before this type of technology is combined with digital food to create unique experiences.

Food designers and sensory scientists have been using virtual reality (VR) to explore digital food since at least 2016. Project Nourished, a “gastronomical virtual reality experience,” replicates existing foods and produces new kinds of food experiences. They aim to help people “eat whatever they want” with no allergies, no intolerances, and no regrets.

Project Nourished, a gastronomic journey in VR.

Digital food as experienced through AR is more easily accessible than VR and is an innovative way to engage with an audience. As food brands aim to sell a gustatory experience, rather than a product, experiencing digital food could help a brand build an emotional connection with an audience. Creators could also add sound to digital food to enhance the perception of flavor and enjoyability. Imagine collaborations between musicians and food brands since research shows that listening to music while eating increases our enjoyment of food.

While we can’t subsist on digital food, AR could help us better enjoy real food and make healthier food choices. For example, repeated exposure to images of vegetables can increase your desire to eat them. Digital food may also induce satiety because viewing images of food could gradually reduce hunger similar to what occurs when we are actually eating. Digital food can also help us eat fewer unhealthy foods; seeing many images representing a specific taste (e.g., sweet or salty) can reduce the enjoyment of those tastes.

There is enormous potential for digital food. While it may, at first glance, appear to be unusual or inauthentic, it can offer something that is missing from traditional eating experiences. Digital food can be “consumed” endlessly and can be accessed from anywhere that has a connection to the internet. Digital food is environmentally conscious, avoids waste, avoids overconsumption, and does not require any transportation. Fundamentally, the new trends in digital food reflect the ever-changing way we exist online and how we share what we consume.

Source: The Future of Food Is Augmented Reality | OneZero

Recent multisensory AR/VR articles

Augmented + virtual realityInteresting

Virtual reality supermarkets could be a game changer for product testing | New Food Magazine

VR technology could enable food manufacturers to quickly test things like on-pack claims and even shelf positioning against consumer shopping habits – without the need for a large gathering on…
Augmented + virtual realityHealth

How Virtual Reality is Helping Parkinson’s Patients | Tennessee Journalist

Denton's virtual reality from Facebook In the age of working remotely, a virtual world unnoticed for years allows for creative engagement among individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Research behind the effects…
Augmented + virtual realityInteresting

Virtual reality supermarkets could be a game changer for product testing | New Food Magazine

VR could enable food manufacturers to quickly test things like on-pack claims and even shelf positioning against consumer shopping habits.Source: Virtual reality supermarkets could be a game changer for product…
Augmented + virtual realityEmotionsMemory

Virtual Reality Helps South Korean Man Reunite With Deceased Wife And Dances With Her | allindiaroundup.com

A man from South Korea was caught on camera breaking down in tears after reuniting with their deceased wife through virtual reality. Watch the video below: Technology is changing the world and…
Augmented + virtual realityTechnology

What Is XR, and How Do I Get It? | WIRED

AMY LOMBARD A new shiny thing called XR—an umbrella term encompassing augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies—is the industry's new favorite buzz word. Qualcomm, in a recent presentation from Hawaii about its…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensoryTechnology

How startups are using XR to disrupt how we work, learn, and play | The next web

Time to open up to new solutions. Andrea Hak Emerging tech like AI, robotics, IoT, blockchain, and machine learning are kicking our organizations into high gear by catapulting our ability…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensoryTechnology

6G could be the world’s first teleportation tech | Light Reading

Meetings conducted via holographic images and virtual reality will never substitute for the business lunch. That shared experience of munching tapas or quaffing Rioja has been an essential lubricant for…
Augmented + virtual reality

Artificial Intelligence Has Yet To Break The Trust Barrier | Forbes

AI recommendations are still at a basic level. GETTY Trust is the glue that holds enterprises and processes together, and lately, more of that trust has being relegated to artificial…
Augmented + virtual realityHealth

8 Ways Virtual Reality is Reshaping Healthcare | BBN Times

The advent of virtual reality (VR) in healthcare will allow medical professionals to ensure the physical and mental well being of their patients. The Tribeca Film Festival recently showcased a…
Augmented + virtual realityCommunicationMultisensorySmellTechnologyVisual

We’re about to start sending messages with our noses | WIRED UK

LUIS MENDO Scents and smells provide us with unique clues about the environment but, unlike animals or plants, humans massively under-use this wealth of olfactory information. This will change in…
Augmented + virtual realityHealth

Applying virtual reality to stroke rehab and neurodegenerative diseases | Health Europa

© iStock/mikkelwilliam A new study has developed a novel, wearable rehabilitation device that uses virtual reality to increase brain connectivity. The study, carried out at one of the Research Centers…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensorySound

The Internet of Senses: Sounds Like Me | Interesting Engineering

Andrii Shchuka/iStock The Internet of Senses (IoS) is part of the emerging technologies that are going to take over and reshape our life during the next decade. The Internet of Senses is one…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensoryTechnology

The Future Of Virtual Reality (VR) | Forbes

The Future Of Virtual Reality (VR) ADOBE STOCK You might think you’ve experienced VR, and you might have been pretty impressed. Particularly if you’re a gamer, there are some great…
Augmented + virtual reality

What is Augmented Reality? | Fierce Electronics

Augmented reality heads-up displays in vehicles can improve situational awareness by locating in a driver's line of vision graphics that interact with and augment objects in the real world.(sefa ozel/iStock/Getty…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensoryTechnology

Textile electronics for virtual and augmented reality applications | Nanowerk

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are some of the hottest multidisciplinary technology trends right now, integrating computer, various sensor, graphic image, communication, measurement and control multimedia, artificial intelligence,…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensoryTechnology

Emerging Consumer Trends Evolving Toward 2030: The Internet of Senses | Interesting engineering

Internet of Senses (IoS)SIphotography/iStock Can you imagine yourself living in the Internet of Senses world? Read to find out what the IoS is all about. The Internet of Things, Augmented…
Augmented + virtual realityInterestingMultisensoryTasteVisual

Coffee Color Changes in Virtual Reality Affect Real-Life Perceptions, Research Shows | Daily Coffee News

New research suggests that changes in the color of cold-brewed coffee as seen through virtuality (VR) can have a profound affect on sensory perceptions. Published earlier this month, the research…
Augmented + virtual realityHealthInteresting

Enjoy A Personalised Immersive Virtual Reality Guided Meditation With AtOne | Women Love Tech

Australian health expert Edwina Griffin has launched the world’s first personalised immersive virtual reality (VR) guided meditation app, AtOne that measures heart-rate variability. The app claims it is the first virtual reality…
Augmented + virtual realityHapticTouch/Feel/Texture

Experience a Full-Body Haptic VR Suit with Teslasuit | TechAcute

In the past few years, Virtual Reality (VR) has become so popular, and numerous devices are using this technology such as VR headsets for gaming. One VR device that really…
Augmented + virtual realityHealthTechnology

Augmented reality in surgery: World’s first “real” holographically navigated spine surgery | News.microsoft

A team at Balgrist University Hospital successfully completed the first holographically navigated spine surgery. This surgery is part of a randomized clinical study which is the first of its kind…
Augmented + virtual realityTasteVisual

New Augmented Reality System Helps Manipulate Taste Perception of Food | Azorobotics

The modified image looks fresh and soft while the real food is dried. Crossmodally, the taste and flavor were changed by the appearance of the food. Image Credit: Yokohama National…
Augmented + virtual realityInterestingScientific

Do androids dream of electric fish? Some fish use electricity to SENSE THINGS FROM FAR AWAY | SYFY

Warner Bros. So maybe there weren’t any electric fish starring in that neon fish tank scene from Blade Runner, but there is a reason that androids might dream of them. While glass knifefish might not be…
Augmented + virtual realityHapticTechnologyTouch/Feel/Texture

Getting a Feel for Haptics. How haptics takes advantage of our… | by Ahmad Shams | The Startup | Medium

Getting a Feel for Haptics Because of technology’s exponential progress, we have not just discovered several new things and broadened our horizons, but gained new experiences. One of tech’s main…
Augmented + virtual realityTechnology

Can virtual working move beyond clumsy Zoom calls? | RetailWire

Photo: @penvipada151 via Twenty20 Caught Zoom fatigue yet? New research predicts advanced technologies and 5G will add options for a full range of sensorial experiences to help companies reimagine the…
Augmented + virtual realityMarketingMultisensorySmellTouch/Feel/TextureVisual

Peak experience: Bulgari’s virtual reality fragrance experiment is pretty cool | Wallpaper

One of the expansive Alpine views users can virtually experience with Bulgari’s new Glacial Essence campaign. Bulgari perfumer Alberto Morillas is standing on top of an alpine glacier in an elegant…
Augmented + virtual realityInteresting

Canadian grocer lets shoppers browse and click virtual aisles | Grocery Dive

Courtesy of CNW Group/Inabuggy Dive Brief: Grocery delivery service Inabuggy launched the first 3D virtual shopping experience in Canada on Thursday, enabling customers to "walk" the aisles of upscale grocery McEwan Fine Foods in the…
Augmented + virtual reality

The Next Stage in the Financial Revolution: AR and VR Solutions | AlleyWatch

Technology-enabled financial solutions have undergone an evolution over the past 130 years. We can consider the late 19th century to have given way to financial globalization. Starting with technologies such…
Augmented + virtual realityHapticMultisensoryTouch/Feel/Texture

This glove helps you ‘touch’ virtual reality | Somag News

The virtual reality experience is a field in which there is much to explore. There are many advances that point to an increasingly integrated experience becoming more and more feasible…
Augmented + virtual realityHealthInteresting

Albemarle County assisted living facility aims to combat loneliness | CBS19News

Commonwealth Senior Living at Charlottesville, which is an assisted living facility in Albemarle County, launched a new virtual reality program aimed at helping its residents combat loneliness. The virtual reality…
Augmented + virtual realityEducation

How VR Will Accelerate Talent Learning and Development | Entrepreneur

Image credit: Westend61 | Getty Images A new normal requires new skills. And the wake of the imminent “new normal” will be littered with learning curves. Benjamin Franklin wisely once said, “Tell…
Augmented + virtual realityCommunicationInterestingTechnology

Covid-19 pandemic has created a tipping point for what workers expect of the future digital office | Computer Wekkly

With the concept of both working and socialising from home becoming a “new normal” in less than a year, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a tipping point for what white-collar…
Augmented + virtual realityEntertainmentMultisensory

Immersive experiences | layered reality, artainment & more | blooloop

Transporting guests to new worlds: the appeal of immersive experiences Immersive experiences have seen an extraordinary period of growth over the last decade, as audiences increasingly choose experiences over products.…
Augmented + virtual realityTechnology

Are immersive technologies ready to build online buying trust? | RetailWire

Source: IKEA Immersive technologies — i.e., augmented reality (AR), 360° video, 3D content and virtual reality (VR) — are advanced, affordable and increasingly being welcomed by consumers looking for greater…
Augmented + virtual realityEducation

Augmented or virtual reality in defence: Revolutionising military missions | The Financial Express

In this context, digitization of defence forces and the usage of futuristic technologies in the defence space is a must for Winnability. Using AR, boot camp experience can be enhanced…
Augmented + virtual realityHealthMultisensory

VR Use in Gaming Has Medical Researchers’ Attention | Medical Daily

In the world of gaming, virtual reality lets the player feel like he is part of the action: climbing hills, shooting bad guys, morphing into character after character. But researchers in Japan took…
Augmented + virtual realityHapticTouch/Feel/Texture

A virtual reality game that integrates tactile experiences using biometric feedback | Techxplore

Snapshot of the game. The black circle in the center is the sphere corresponding to the heart. The ring around it is the target. The user throws a sphere to…
Augmented + virtual realityHapticTouch/Feel/Texture

Sense of touch for VR is arriving now, with attached hype | Digital Journal

Image uploaded by Matt Terndrup Sydney - The next buzzword is “haptic”, meaning related to the sense of touch. One of the oldest science fiction clichés is about to become unavoidable –…
Augmented + virtual reality

The Virtual-Reality Conference Room | WSJ

Wall Street Journal reporter Sara Castellanos and her avatar. Sara’s movements in her Brooklyn apartment corresponded to her avatar’s in the digital conference room. PHOTO: FIDELITY INVESTMENTS INC. On a recent…
Augmented + virtual realityMultisensorySoundVisual

Tourism Australia offers 8D sound and sensory experience | Outlook Traveller

Explore the Great Barrier Reef from your couch, with a real-time effect, Photo Credit: Shutterstock Virtual tours and immersive travelling is the latest travel fad, and Tourism Australia just took it…
Augmented + virtual realityHealth

Augmented reality changing healthcare landscape | Biospectrum India

Image credit- shutterstock.com The current situation of COVID-19 pandemic has identified new-age technologies playing an important role in reducing human interactions and maintaining social distancing. COVID-19 has pushed many sectors…

Random sensory quotes

If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and the white notes together.

— Richard M. Nixon