You’re probably sick of hearing about how virtual and augmented reality will be the next big thing. Headlines declaring its revolutionary ascent have seemed excessive and hyperbolic, but you’ve got to admit this new technology has a lot of potential to shift how we’re able to perceive the world. (Even if it’s yet to have a mainstream moment beyond Father John Misty rhyming “Oculus Rift” with “Taylor Swift.”)
One unexpected area that AR and VR could have a major impact is in the food industry. And believe it or not, your kitchen may already contain some creepily fascinating augmented and/or virtual experiences.
Play with your food
Marketers are already tapping into your ability to interact with basic household foods in a more playful, even game-ified way. Take cereal, for instance. Nestlé managed to print an AR game on 26 million cereal boxes, featuring characters from the children’s movie “Rio.” By utilizing a webcam, players can try to feed a cartoon bird by tipping their hand to fill a bowl. Sounds like a recipe for spilling to me!
Walmart and Kraft have also joined forces to create scannable labels featuring tips, recipes, and contest entry forms to meet country singer Brad Paisley. (I guess he really likes cheese singles? )
And in a far creepier twist, the Treasury Wine Estates has a line of 19 wines, each of which feature a criminal on the label. Their latest app allows you to bring those convicts to life. Because sure, who doesn’t want to be taunted by a notorious murderer while under the influence?
These may all seem like short-term marketing gimmicks—and they definitely are—but at the consumer level, it’s the most direct way for customers to engage with products, in hopes of increasing brand loyalty. However there are most significant implications for AR and VR in the culinary world, beyond interacting with the ghost of criminals while sipping merlot.
Actually learn a culinary skill
VR could be an incredibly easy way to streamline employee training in the food industry. From learning how to operate fancy coffee machines to mastering the art of noodles, virtual reality can actually teach you real-world skills. Software engineers at Daydream Labs are already helping people perfect their espresso pull and tech company Klip Collective has helped train employees at Philadelphia’s Honeygrow restaurant chain using some fascinating devices.
By recreating all sorts of scenarios and locations, often from under the hood of a helmet, chefs and amateurs alike gain access to a variety of situations they might encounter and can adapt accordingly. They can also practice these skills in a low pressure, digital environment, gaining confidence on their way to preparing an actual meal.
Home cooks can also get in on the action. Augmented reality is shockingly effective at showing what food should look like in ways that go beyond photograph. For example, if you’re baking a cake, how tall should it be? And what should the layers actually look like from a scaled perspective? This is where Romain Rouffet comes in. He’s a self-professed “3D scanning enthusiast” who has captured every layer of a banoffee (banana and toffee) pie in three dimensions.
Viewers can click and drag their mouse around to view the delicious dessert from every angle, ensuring their versions come out just as evenly. The same technology can also be used to help estimate more realistic and healthy portion sizes. Here’s hoping it’s only a matter of time before all recipes are accompanied by such augmented, in-depth models.
When can we taste VR food?
While we can’t eat virtual food just yet, Patrón will still give you a tour of their hacienda. You can explore their estate and the Tequila-making process with their new app. Con: no buzz. Pro: no hangover!
Also the world’s most expensive restaurant does offer VR broccoli for a mere $2,000. I’m not sure what stage of late capitalism blowing two grand on fake vegetables qualifies as, but I’m sure it’s being worked into the next season of “Black Mirror” as I type this.
Header image courtesy of Daydream Labs.