Virtual Reality to connect people with new food technology

“I never knew how 3D printing food worked, and to be immersed in the whole process is fascinating,” says a University of Cambridge student. “You can do extraordinary things with technology,” adds another. These comments are in response to their experience of new Virtual Reality (VR) videos featuring new food technologies, launched recently on The series, created by an international team involving the University of Cambridge, shows how technology is integrated into the European food industry and where it can solve sustainability issues and transform the way our food is produced. 

One video takes the viewer to Iceland to see farmers growing tomatoes in sub-zero temperatures, in greenhouses powered by geothermal energy (available here). Another shows how food-tech company Foodinihas found a way to cut down on fish waste, using 3D printing technology to create a perfectly edible product from offcuts that would otherwise be wasted. The third video takes users through the ins and outs of vertical farming (Plantcube) and all of its benefits – one being that it uses a fraction of the land and water required for conventional farming. 

The Virtual Reality experience not only gives the spectator a fully immersive, 360-degree view experience, but it allows them to feel like they are physically part of the story. Finding themselves surrounded by tomatoes, or in a boat in Iceland fishing cod is a wonderful way to learn about the origins of our food. 

“We are trying to explore the potential of virtual reality to connect people with food tech more effectively,”says Dr. Holly T. Kristinsson, Consultant for Innovation and Market Analysis at Matis and Coordinator of the Future Kitchen project. “With consumer trust in the food system at an all-time low, we need to step up, reconnect with people and inspire them.” Funded by EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, the project responds to the need to (re)connect people with food. 

In the context of food, technology tends to have negative connotations among the public. This series helps to overcome this and show how technological advances can be key to achieving a more sustainable food system. Creative infotainment aims to do this by transferring new knowledge while also entertaining the viewer by putting them into the story. VR in particular has evolved into a powerful learning tool, giving viewers a more immersive experience. 

Providing people with knowledge gives them new tools to take meaningful decisions about their food and nutrition. From a food industry perspective, this initiative could work as a pilot project to explore how new technologies can engage consumers and encourage interest in food-related careers.

Forging ahead

The series will continue to expand in scope to highlight more novel technologies. Not only will we be introducing viewers to future kitchen devices and food origins but also robotics, metabolomics, personalized nutrition, macro and micro algae processing and novel food processing - including how alternative proteins are made.

For those who are interested in experiencing these new VR videos for themselves, we are holding two sessions at Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas this October (booking open soon.) We also hold regular Focus Group lunch sessions, giving you the opportunity to come and and tell us your thoughts.  Our August Focus Group is now fully booked, but keep an eye out for the next group in September or October.

Food Unfolded:

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