If you’re like me – and statistics show you probably are – you could stand to shed a few pounds.
And chances are if you are trying to lose weight, you probably know there is no shortage of modern-day diets with which to do so. Whether it’s the caveman, Mediterranean, vegan, Atkins, butter and coffee, coffee and coffee or hot dog diet (my favorite), or one of the professionally packaged programs such as Weight Watchers or Nutrisystems, the weight loss industry has ballooned more than our waistlines over the past few decades.
The technology industry has also gotten into the weight loss game. Everything from wearables, fitness apps, food sensors and even food-sensing plates can now assist us in our weight loss effort, so it’s perhaps not altogether surprising that virtual reality – Silicon Valley’s latest obsession heading fast up the hype cycle – will soon be on the menu of options for weight loss.
Anyone who’s tried VR knows it’s technology that largely based on visual trickery, allowing you to see and move within digitally generated worlds in such a way that you feel as if you’re really there. That’s great, but you and I both know seeing food – even virtual food – isn’t quite the same as tasting it, no matter how realistic that digi-burger looks.
But what if you could virtually taste something in addition to just seeing it? Recent research shows that it’s possible to use technology to create the physical sensation of eating food. Techniques vary, but early efforts have included manipulating temperature on the tip of someone’s tongue to create a “sweet taste” and the use of electrical currents to not only create different taste sensations in a person’s mouth, but to also simulate different food textures.
According to a post over at The Spoon, the “strength of the electric impulse controlled the texture, or hardness of the simulated food and the duration of the impulse controlled the elasticity sensation of the jaw opening and closing during chewing. By varying the strength and duration, researchers were able to more realistically produce the sensation of biting into real food.”
While these are early days for virtual eating, I have a suspicion that it won’t be long before this research is commercialized for weight loss applications. I can even imagine non-dietary applications like virtual “food tours” of far-flung locations. Can’t afford that trip to Italy? Why not visit Osteria Francescana on a virtual tasting tour.
To do that, they’ll need to also work on digital scent technology. Oh yeah, that’s something that is also apparently on the menu.