With These Virtual Reality Glasses, You Can Eat All the Junk Food You Want

Project Nourished aims to make you think you're eating sweet treats.

(Photo courtesy Project Nourished)

Jan 26, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Would you chow down on a Krispy Kreme doughnut (or its sugary equivalent) every day if eating the sweet treat wasn’t so bad for your health and waistline? If Project Nourished, an effort from Kokiri Lab, a Los Angeles–based tech company, proves successful, in the future you might be able to eat a dozen doughnuts a day and not feel guilty about putting yourself on the road to obesity.

Or, at least, a virtual reality version of yourself will be eating all those doughnuts and you’ll be eating a gelatinous substance that your mind believes is a tasty circular piece of fried dough. To some folks this probably sounds as unappetizing as Soylent. But unlike that Silicon Valley–birthed meal replacement, Kokiri Lab’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too venture takes advantage of the sensory experience of eating sweet treats.

The project, which is in the development phase, relies on Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets. All users will have to do is put the headset on, and voilà, a doughnut—or whatever it is that they want to really eat—is in front of them. Users can even choose what setting they want to eat in.

Along with replicating the taste of food, the system will replicate the smell and feel of foods, so between the virtual reality and the sensory experience, you could go to town on the unhealthy junk food option of your choice.

“Our perception of a meal relies upon different sensory input derived from the visuals, flavors, textures and scents of what we eat,” the project’s website states. “By isolating various flavor compounds and recreating their taste and textural profiles—coupled with virtual reality and aromatic diffusion—we can mimic a surprisingly broad spectrum of foods.”

Never mind that in reality, users are munching on a combination of hydrocolloid polymers and gums, which are made out of low-calorie substances such as naturally derived pectin and gum Arabic.

The creators hope that the project can solve a slew of food-related issues. The most obvious is the challenge of obesity because folks who struggle with their weight often have a tough time selecting healthier meal options. The Project Nourished website states that the venture hopes to help people reduce their “intake of excess calories and curb unnecessary cravings.” The technology could also be used to help folks with allergies—virtual reality peanut butter could become a thing.

The project is still in the testing phase, and its website doesn’t state how much the whole setup would cost if it came to market. Right now virtual reality headsets are so bulky that wearing them for meals—can you imagine sitting down for dinner with your family wearing those?—might not be too practical. But who knows—maybe a few years from now we’ll all be eating dozens of “doughnuts” all day long.