The study of flavour alteration through augmented reality

Today we talk about taste, flavors and... augmented reality!What do these three words have in common?

Written Tuesday, by Emanuele Mortarotti

A new appointment with Dispotech’s blog news, your disposable excellence. Today we talk about taste, flavors and... augmented reality!

What do these three words have in common? Well, thanks to a study by Cornell University in the state of New York, we might be able to understand a bit more. Take a look at our article, inspired by a piece published on medicalnewstoday.com!

When we taste something, we are often unaware that the flavour in our mouth is actually " altered " by what we breathe in and the scents surrounding us. However, other senses also play their part. Sight, in particular, can literally alter the way we perceive the taste of food: this is what some American scholars claim, after experimenting with technologies such as Virtual Reality to prove it.

Our food choices tend to be dictated by taste, because we tend to choose foods that we like rather than those less appealing to us. Furthermore, the act of tasting alone triggers essential signals sent to the brain, which is then able to warn us immediately about the food condition (for instance, if it has gone bad).

Taste is a very important sense: it has enabled the preservation of the human race throughout history.

Many factors can influence people' perception of flavours. According to a new study conducted by researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York State, everything we taste when we eat is significantly influenced by where we are while we eat.

To test how the location may alter the perception of taste, the researchers asked 50 people to participate in a virtual experiment. Each participant, by means of VR headsets, had the opportunity to experiment, in turn, three different settings: a "sensory cabin", a park bench and a stable.

In each virtual environment, the participants ate the same food: a portion of blue cheese,  identical for everyone. Afterwards, the researchers asked the participants to give a vote of approval for each environment, with a comment on the flavour and spiciness of the cheese in each setting.

Undoubtedly, all the Virtual Reality settings influenced the participants' taste perceptions: when they ate their cheese in the stable, they judged the cheese more "pungent" than the other virtual scenarios.

"We are inclined to eat in places that can influence our perception of food," says Dr. Dando, a member of the team that led the project.

This study gives another important signal, the fact that scientists can adapt (easily and without excessive costs) Virtual Reality to sensory food assessments, a cutting-edge method used in the field of Sensory Sciences.


Virtual Reality in Sensory Sciences
Food sensory analysis focuses upon the perception and response of each individual to different types of food and drink. At present, this type of research has various applications.

One of these, which is considered very important, is aimed at improving the nutrition experience for the elderly. In fact, with ageing many elderly people lose their sense of taste, making food less appetising. This causes serious chain reactions, such as loss of appetite and, with it, a worrisome deficiency of proteins, vitamins and fluids essential to keep the body healthy.

Virtual Reality, however, will allow researchers to recreate a variety of different situations very easily, without having to spend a fortune on cash or natural resources. "This research is yet another demonstration of how Virtual Reality can be used across all sectors, even the most unthinkable, because it gives the opportunity to recreate immersive environments useful for testing," explained Dr. Dando enthusiastically.

Unbelievable, isn't it? What do you think of this innovation? Let us know your opinion by contacting Dispotech, your disposable excellence.

Emanuele Mortarotti
Author Emanuele Mortarotti

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