A new research paper published in the Journal of Food Science, has shown how virtual reality technology affects a user’s experience of food consumption.
Using the example of sensory environments manipulated by virtual reality technology, the researchers have been able to show that the environment a person eats in affects their food consumption by altering their perception of the taste of food.
The paper is called “Dynamic Context Sensory Testing–A Proof of Concept Study Bringing Virtual Reality to the Sensory Booth”, and was authored by Alina Stelick, Alexandra G. Penano, Alden C. Riak, and Robin Dando.
How sensory experiences alter the taste of food
The study says: ‘Eating is a multimodal experience. When we eat, we perceive not just the taste and aroma of foods, but also their visual, auditory, and tactile properties, as well as sensory input from our surroundings…We consume foods in environments that can “spill over” into our perceptions of the food. Thus, we consider some foods “unsuitable” for certain settings, with others deemed more suitable for this locale.’
Virtual reality technology and food consumption
The authors of the study have written that one of their main purposes was creating an easy and affordable methodology for evaluating how virtual reality technology can alter the experience of food consumption, without the need for expensive equipment or complex programming.
The participants in the study were asked to taste three identical samples of blue cheese in different sensory environments.
The environments used for testing were:
- A sensory booth;
- A park bench; and
- A cow barn.
The participants gave ratings of the food consumption experience based on how much they enjoyed the sample, how salty it tasted, and how pungent it was.
The results of this were that the samples were rated as more pungent when they were consumed in the barn. The study concluded: ‘[The] perception of a sample was significantly influenced by the VR context in which it was delivered.’