Real talk: the concept of a virtual reality food experience seems unfulfilling to say the least. But with an eye on taking the best parts of eating and immersing oneself in a delicious culinary experience, while eschewing pesky aspects of gastronomy such as gaining weight due to high amounts of fats and calories or allergic reactions brought on by hidden ingredients, a virtual reality experience built around food could open our taste buds up to new and exciting culinary opportunities.
Jinsoo An, brainchild of Project Nourished, a VR culinary experience designed to let people experience and eat any food they want, without any of those aforementioned side effects, believes that food should come with zero consequences. After all, some of the most decadent and rich dishes in the culinary world are just downright bad for us. But with virtual reality technology, no longer will we have to sacrifice these culinary experiences due to guilt or shame or biology.
Project Nourished hopes to broaden the palates of people everywhere by using various manipulative methods to trick one’s mind and taste buds into thinking they’re eating something that’s completely opposite from what is actually in their mouths. An offers up sushi as an example highlighting what Project Nourished can do. The sushi in this VR experience is actually comprised of semi-translucent cubes molded to look like rice, but really made out of the vegan substitute for gelatin: agar-agar.
Donning the Oculus Rift headset, users are transported into Project Nourished’s virtual world that promises “the culinary experience of a lifetime.” The environment is that of a beautiful Zen garden, and the viewer is situated in front of a plate with that cube of fake sushi. Project Nourished employs an atomizer that sends out a blast of scent to make the viewer believe they’re in a sushi restaurant. To recreate the taste that one would expect from sushi, An collaborated with restaurateur Nguyen Tran, whose research found that the dominate flavors of sushi on American palates are wasabi and ginger. These are incorporated into the agar-agar sushi cube, on top of simple rice and seaweed flavors to make users think they’re eating an actual piece of sushi.
An readily admits that Project Nourished requires a suspension of disbelief to be truly effective, but he sees his VR project as a means of inserting or removing nutrients and ingredients to make food a malleable, adjustable experience in order for people to experience the taste and sensation of a given food without having to worry about negative outcomes – say, like, obesity or anaphylactic shock. I mean, just imagine being able to remove all the fat and calories from a decadent piece of cake, inserting necessary vitamins into it and still have it taste like the delicious baked good that it is. If that reality can only be done virtually, then sign me up!