Augmented Reality

The book “Not On the Label” by Felicity Lawrence inspired the Swedish journalist Mats-Eric Nilsson to write “Den Hemlige Kocken” (The Secret Chef). He has now released a sequel called “Äkta Vara” (Real Food) and I do recommend reading them both, although in reverse order. Why? Well, one of my chef friends said that he was afraid to read the first book since he suspected he would become heart-broken and not want to cook any longer and I think he’s on the spot right. You need to see that there are good alternatives to factory produced food containing additives with suspect origin and effects.

Regarding the glutamate debate it is quite interesting to see that The Swedish National Food Administration describes it as harmless and natural existing. However, the point that Nilsson makes is that we should be careful eating food that has been produced and processed in such a way that the natural flavor has been lost (if it were ever there).

Augmented reality is part of the ubiquitous computing area, where live real world images are enhanced with graphical computer overlays. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk into a grocery shop and just immediately see what food is good for you since it was highlighted by your glasses? Ideas like these are not far from becoming reality since researchers from all over Europe team up to develop for example mobile augmented reality, such as the IPerG project.

However, I think there is a lesson to be learned from the history of food regarding what might happen when mixing the real and the artificial. Bounce, cohesiveness, denseness, gumminess, heaviness, moisture absorption, mouthcoating and uniformity of chew are all examples of parameters of mouthfeel. This is the way that the food and drink industry tries to capture aspects of what we consume, as a means to replace the real (and expensive) with the artificial (and cheap). One of the fundamental aspects of programming is that it requires everything to be described in detail. But do we want to always have our experience reduced to distinct entities? What about enjoying something in a holistic manner, where the result is something that is more than the sum of its parts? And what about the risk of making people so used to the artificial (has happened with vanilla ice-cream) that they become skeptical to the real thing?

Recently four women founded the company Sjölunda Gård and started to import ecological food to Sweden. They have launched ecological candy having all the bounce, denseness and gumminess you can expect, and it tastes really good as well. In contrast to many of the big brands with names designed to make you associate to small-scale local production (although the food is made in giant factories) there seems to be a real farm. Although the products are imported, the barn is used as office and store-house. I also like the way they make use of Facebook to keep in touch with the growing numbers of customers, and that they have the guts to include a Youtube video from a fan.

No comments: