Chewing Food in Virtual Reality

Continuing in the theme of “Virtual Reality is not just 3D vision”, Arinobu Niijima and Takefumi Ogawa of The University of Tokyo propose to use electrical muscle stimulation to simulate the texture of food! [1]

Like the sense of taste, the chewiness and hardness of food is an intimate experience, relying on sensations from the mouth and face muscles. Nevertheless, a virtual reality experience of “eating” would be completely meaningless without feeling the food as you chew it.

As the researchers comment, direct manipulation (e.g., with a mouth piece) is intrusive, inflexible and potentially uncomfortable.

This month Niijima and Ogawa describe a system that uses electircal stimulation of the face muscles to crate sensations of resistance that simulate the sensations of chewing various foods. Their insight is that the varying the stimulation in two ways feels like chewing. The “strength” (frequency of pulses) resembles hardness, and the duration resembles “chewiness”.

Combined the the ideas from the Singapore group, this basic idea opens the possibility of programming a “meal” in virtual reality, delivering simulated taste and texture!

“Put together, all of these technologies could one day be incorporated into a virtual reality headset to create a multisensory dining experience.” (From Victoria Turk [3].)

Furthermore, I would add haptics such as ultrahaptics, to give the sensation of picking up and moving virtual food to the mouth.

Amazing!


  1. Arinobu Niijima and Takefumi Ogawa, Study on Control Method of Virtual Food Texture by Electrical Muscle Stimulation, in Proceedings of the 29th Annual Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. 2016, ACM: Tokyo, Japan. p. 199-200. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2984768
  2. Victoria Turk,  (2016) Face electrodes let you taste and chew in virtual reality. New Scientist, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2111371-face-electrodes-let-you-taste-and-chew-in-virtual-reality/

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