How Virtual Reality Is Changing the Food Industry

photo credit: Lux Interaction / The Unsplash License

Although virtual reality has been around for a while now, we’re just starting to really get a feel for what all this technology has to offer. VR tech has dramatically improved over the last few years, particularly for smartphones. But recent VR headset releases like the Oculus Quest are making waves because they track movement better and offer an improved user experience. But this is all only the beginning. In a few more years, we’ll really see VR take off.

Even though it’s still going to take some time for the technology to catch up, VR has the potential to completely change our society. One of the reasons virtual reality is seeing so much success already in a wide range of industries is because it gives users access to any world that developers can create. At the moment, it’s doing particularly well in the gaming industry, but it also is being used to train employees for difficult or impossible-to-replicate jobs. Beyond that, it’s showing a lot of promising applications in nearly every other industry. In the future, VR will change how we shop, how we travel, how we work, and even how we eat. In fact, it’s already started to change the food industry in a major way.

VR Experiences in Restaurants

If you expected virtual reality to disrupt many other industries before the food industry, you’re not alone. But VR is all about creating another world, and it allows restaurants another way to offer a memorable dining experience. Many of the most famous VR restaurants offer diners a show to go with their food, and a one-of-a-kind experience. The restaurants are small and very intimate, and despite this, they’re usually not the place to catch up with friends.

Two of the most well-known VR restaurants are Tree by Naked yoyogi park in Tokyo and Sublimotion in Ibiza. Tree by Naked was designed a couple of years ago by Ryotaro Muramatsu, a visual artist. The restaurant combines virtual and physical reality to entertain diners, and the experience has a story-like structure. For example, while wearing a VR headset you might see animals walking around you or the seasons change as you eat. And what you see will change for each course so that each virtual experience is perfectly paired with each course. Sublimotion offers a similar experience, and it offers one of the most expensive dining experiences in the world (it’ll set you back a few thousand dollars). Unlike Tree by Naked, the restaurant does not offer virtual reality throughout the entire meal — VR is simply one “course” on the menu.

Virtual Reality Food Industry - YellRobot
Photo by Thomas Tucker / The Unsplash License

VR Can Alter How We Taste Food

The way that we taste food is linked to how our other senses experience the food, and it’s even linked to our memories. For example, how we remember the taste of a food item, how we see a food item represented in front of us, and how we smell it all affect what we actually taste. If you saw a small square of green Jell-O-like food in front of you, how would you imagine it to taste? And then, how would that affect how it tastes once you eat it? With a VR headset, that small square of Jell-O-like food could look like and taste like a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Changing what we see in front of us by wearing a VR headset could dramatically change how we taste and experience what we eat (even if it doesn’t look like Jell-O). For example, if a child really hates eating her vegetables, but wears a VR headset that allows her to see a food she enjoys, would she feel as if she’s eating that food instead of the vegetables? It might help to compare this idea to seeing a slice of pizza on a TV show, and then being able to perfectly recall the taste and imagine that you’re eating it. Sure, a VR headset might not actually help a child to accomplish eating all of her vegetables, but it might confuse her for a moment — and that’s really saying something about how we experience taste, and how VR can change how we taste.

Check out our articles on the world’s first VR bumper cars and going to Church in virtual reality.