Pac-Man on a plate: Play with your food to boost taste and experience
Using a tech-modified plate and plenty of imagination, researchers have created a fun way for both diners and chefs to enhance a dining experience. And yes, this essentially means you now have permission to play with your food.
Computer science students and food enthusiasts from Monash University in Australia have designed a deceptively simple and streamlined system featuring a plate fitted with electrodes, which can be programmed to move droplets of condiments around the space. Drawing some inspiration from elaborate, artful dessert plating that focuses on different flavor combinations, the "dancing delicacies" system also allows for those preparing these intricate feasts to create a narrative around the dish – quite literally.
“For example, a chef can predefine the locations where they want to put the food droplets and ingredients, and they can program the dish frame by frame, like you do in animation,” said lead author Jilian Deng, from the faculty of Information Technology at Monash University. “We can put solid items and watery items together, we can merge two different flavors, we can transport various things towards the plate, we can play with chemical or physical reactions like in molecular gastronomy.”
While computing and cuisine have had some crossover in the past, this is the first time it’s been executed in such a way that allows for a more dynamic expression of creativity and flare.
“The integration of food and computing will transform how we understand both computing and food as not two very different things, but a new frontier that combines the best of both,” said Florian Mueller, professor at Monash University. “This will not only change the hospitality industry, who can create much more engaging experiences by being able to tell new and different stories through interactive food, but also computer science education, where students learn about computing by eating food.”
The researchers also worked with chefs to put the play into practice, with the resulting dishes presented to study participants.
“The project helped to unlock additional dimensions to creating dishes while thinking more keenly about the diner’s interaction with the food,” said Matthew Birley, head chef at Monash Club who took part in a workshop. “We really start to interact with the feelings and movements of the diner. I think this can have a great impact on what we can do as chefs in the dining industry.”
The paper was published in the journal DIS '23: Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference.
For more on the dancing delicacies project, see the Exertion Games Lab portal, or check out the video below.
Source: Monash University