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Food Hackathon

Laser printed orange of Vitamin C
Laser printed orange with vitamin C

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a food hackathon at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. Vaiva Kalnikaité creative director of Dovetailed and Tim Regan from Microsoft Research Cambridge jointly hosted it. As an introduction to the workshop Vaiva and Tim had played around with laser printing on fruit and vegetables (see pictures).

Laser printed aubergine with vitamin C bar chart.
Laser printed aubergine with vitamin C bar chart.

Caroline Hobkinson, a food artist, introduced us to how taste can be manipulated by environment, utensils and even sound. For example, listening to high frequencies when eating something may make it taste sweeter whereas lower frequencies will make it taste bitter. They had experimented with a QR code which would link us to a frequency which would enhance our taste experience (see picture below). Potentially one could reduce sugar intake by experimenting with these techniques.

Food Hackathon QR code
Food Hackathon QR Code that sweetens food

Yvonne Rogers gave a presentation on the latest research including the HAPIfork (Haptic fork) which would try to slow you down when eating by using haptic feedback. She also made me realise that we should consider carefully what we want to achieve by introducing interaction into food. A video was shown with the Makey Makey kit which was being used with elderly people to interact with fruit to produce music.

Of course, the highlight of the workshop for me was Gabriel Villar's 3D fruit printing machine which was commissioned by Dovetailed. It extends a molecular-gastronomy technique called spherification and allows you to print droplets. The fruit printed resembled raspberries but the flavour can be altered by using a different flavoured juice for example strawberries. This could potentially allow you to print fruits in different forms playing with the flavour to enhance the experience.

Towards the end of the workshop we were divided into teams to develop a prototype that would enhance a food experience. Our group developed an idea to enhance an older persons eating habits by developing a box called "Dinner for Two". The box provided messages to be printed onto food ingredients, the meal to be cooked together and eaten together via a video and audio link. It was a most enjoyable rainy Saturday afternoon in Cambridge especially with all the delightful treats along the way by Jack's Gelato, Hot Numbers coffee and Boutique Mama Bombon chocolate.