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Food & VR: Expectation of a Tasty Food affects the Brain
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Food & VR: Expectation of a Tasty Food affects the Brain

As it stands, we can replicate smell in VR, but taste, has long been severely under funded, with only one interface available. However, additional evidence for the benefits of virtualising the taste/smell of food has come to light.

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behaviour shows that exposing rats to a context associated with eating chocolate activates a part of the brain's reward system known as the orexin system.

Even if hunger is not present, the smells of cooking food which is attractive to the individual, sets the brain's reward system into action, making it much easier to snag a given individual, for a marketing exercise, or increasing their immersion level within a sim. Of course, smells only go so far, and unless the taste of good food is replicated as well as the smell, this will likely drive people away rather than entice them closer.

On the flip side, if the taste of food can be replicated, then the possibilities open up. Especially tasty foods elicit brain responses similar to those elicited by drugs of abuse such as cocaine and nicotine, pointing to a general involvement of the brain\'s \"reward\" system. A common factor may be activation of orexin neurons in the brain, which are recruited during of rewards such as a tasty food or a dose of cocaine.

In short, really good food is addictive and pleasurable. Unlike physical food, the quantity is not limited in any way, nor are their concerns as to weight gain. Add a base nutritional substrate to actually eat, if desired - a mouth sensor that extrudes onto the tongue, was developed a few years ago, that can happily be chewed without damage. So, people could eat as much as they liked, in a VR, without risking their health. Of course, whilst they eat in a social VR, they are also at the mersy of your advertising or products display.

References

Sensory Malfunction: Taste

Think of a concept, and you taste it

Virtual Reality has conquered taste

Just expecting a tasty food activates brain reward systems

Staff Comments

 


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