AR Dieting System Changes Look Of Food So Users Eat Less

Trick your brain into consuming fewer calories.

Common holiday dinner scenario: Enticed by all of your favorite foods against the backdrop of a festive setting, you pile your plate high with a little extra of everything. Though you have every intention of finishing, you simply can’t compete with the oversized portions, which invariably prompts someone to say, “your eyes were bigger than your stomach!” Well it turns out there is indeed some truth to the link between vision and appetite. It’s so close in fact, that researchers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to manipulate appetite with augmented reality.

The team has developed an AR system that is able to ‘trick’ your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you really are. They found that the feeling of being full is partially determined by how much food you see yourself eating, so by making the food appear larger than it actually is they were able to make users feel fuller sooner.

The system works by mounting a camera onto a person’s head that points down onto the food being held in their hand. The camera’s signal is processed by an algorithm that is able to identify food items and make it appear larger while also making the user’s hand look as if it is opening wider to hold the larger piece of food. This feed is then streamed to a pair of glasses worn by the diner, which display the augmented food item, giving them the experience of eating something larger than they actually are.

But does it really work? The creators claim that during tests users ate 10% less, when food was made to appear 1.5 times larger. The system even works in reverse. When food is made to look smaller, it increases a person’s appetite. While still just a prototype, this augmented reality trick could interface with future gadgets like Google Glass and become a widespread dieting aid. Once perfected, the system could potentially detect unhealthy foods and automatically increase their size, or make nutritious foods look more appetizing with specific colors and presentations.

It’s the creator’s hope to develop technology that encourages healthy eating habits without the need to think — a behavioral approach to dieting that involves a ‘brain hack’ rather than chemicals. By effectively placing a mediator between humans and their desires, this technology could help encourage long-term changes in eating habits rather than the fleeting feeling of being full. But no matter how smart the technology may be, a little bit of willpower is still necessary. Users need to choose to put the glasses on after all, and promise to keep them on all the way through dessert.

Hirose Tanikawa Group, University of Tokyo

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