The Virtual Foodscape Simulator – gaming, designing and measuring food behaviour in created food realities
Organizers: B.E. Mikkelsen, S. Serafin, L. Mangano & E.R. Høeg (Aalborg University)
Introduction: The Virtual Food Choice Simulator (VFCS) is developed by students from Medialogy and Integrated Food Studies in the context of the MultiSensory Lab and FoodScape lab. It is simulating buffet and supermarket virtual foodscapes and is building on dynamic reconfigurations, texture changes, ability to do substitution of textures with 3D objects of corresponding food items etc. The idea builds on the ability to make 1:1 representation of the market itself together with products as textures (picture-based). The design of supermarket fruit and vegetable shelves as well as cash cafeteria checkout counters are the cases since the VFCS can make designs at very low cost. The real settings is converted to virtual setting and replaced by respective 3D models. The model makes it possible to build interaction scenarios on top of them. The basic features provides ability to pick items, turn them around, place them in a shopping basket and go through the checkout. The ultimate VFCS has the ability of fast prototyping of random foodscapes as 3D worlds with various degrees of interaction. The framework is designed with extendability of flexibility in mind, so that it is possible to build a web based configuration manager to control some aspects of the 3D world. Log data is available for download that will help analyzing behavior of people within mentioned 3D foodscapes. The VFCS equipment includes a custom built Find’n Grab glove, a set of Oculus RiftTM glasses and WiiTM NintendoTM controllers as well as Walk’n Choose leg sensors. Both controllers and the Oculus RiftTM are off the shelf products. The Find’n Grab glove is used to imitate the movement of the hand to choose products. The Walk’n Choose leg sensors is used to allow test persons to imitate real walking. The purpose of the protocol is to lay a roadmap for 2nd generation VFCS project. It should develop the VFCS ver1.0 to a more robust and versatile tool and test the feasibility and validity of the VFCS as a tool to measure choice (compare with real reality). In addition it should develop and test the applicability of VFCS as a learning tool in a gamified version for pupils in home economics.
Purpose: Against this background a VFCS has been developed and tested as a design tool and is currently developed into a gamified version. The aim of the paper is to outline the two modes of operation of the virtual food reality and to give an account of the technical backbone of the solution. Finallly the paper discusses the potential of virtual food realities to serve as a reliable tool for testing consumer behavior in food environments.
State of the art: Understanding and modelling food choice is of significant interest to food retailers, food caterers as well as researchers engaged in food, nutrition and consumer science. As a result behavioural nutrition and the study of pathways leading to food choice is a growing field of scientific inquiry. In a study by Wansink, Just, Hanks, and Smith (2013) performed in school cafeterias, pre-sliced apples were found to sell better than whole apples. Marchiori, Waroquier, and Klein (2012) investigated the effect of serving half-sizes cookies instead of whole to children for afternoon tea and found that energy intake decreased when the children were served the half cookies. Rolls, Roe, Kral, Meengs and Wall (2004) and Wansink (1996) both found that the amount used or consumed increased with increasing package size in products such as potato chips and spaghetti. Such experiments are normally performed in real foodscape settings. But with recent developments in information and communication technology new avenues have opened for researchers in the field. With the possibility of doing food choice experiments on the screen before doing a full scale real experiment the costs of uncovering consumer food behaviour can be reduced significantly. And being able to design food environments in buffets and retail environments can save large sums for food retailers and food service operators. Using virtual reality in shopping as well as in research of shopping behavior is not a new phenomenon. It is increasingly being used in e-commerce for instance to investigate different pricing strategies as a tool to stimulate healthier food choices (Waterlander, 2014). The virtual approach offers obvious advantages compared to reality. One of the most prominent advantages is the possibility to devise and simultaneously test multiple changes to supermarket settings, without any investments and physical efforts and interference. In addition educating young people and citizens about food choice and healthy shopping and eating in a virtual setting opens new avenues for game based nutrition and consumer education. Researchers at Aalborg University has been working with the new technology under the umbrellas of the FoodScapeLab (www.foodscapelab.aau.dk) and the AAU Multisensory Lab and a experimental model has been developed and tested [1;2].
Against this background the aim of the Foosionsprotocol is to develop the VFCS as an easy and inexpensive tool for predicting, gaming and designing in the area of food choice and behavioural nutrition. The project should further test the tool in real choice dynamics experiment where subjects will be exposed to a food choice condition in two different frames and validate the tool against a real experiment where real foods are used.
Virtual reality technologies have achieved a level of sophistication that allow to simulate realistic immersive representations of real places. Moreover, novel devices such as the recently popular Oculus Rift head mounted display (http://www.oculusvr.com) allow to visualize such simulations in 3D and in front of the eyes of the user, in such a way to enhance the sensation of “being there” (Slater, 2009).
Interaction technologies have also progressed in such a way that it is nowadays possible to track actions of the users such as reaching, pointing, grasping and walking, and map such actions to corresponding events in the virtual world. Moreover, the simulation of the sense of touch and haptic feedback allows to create a synthetic representation of the feeling of the different objects, in order to experience their texture. This sensation can be enhanced with auditory feedback, since interactions with hard objects produce audible sounds. In the field of virtual supermarkets and virtual buffets, most of the simulations are web based and allow limited interactions with the available objects. In this project we are interested in exploiting the state of the art research in virtual reality and multimodal interaction, in order to create a faithful simulation of the act of grocery shopping or selecting food at a buffet.
The VFCS is simulating buffet and supermarket virtual foodscapes and is building on dynamic reconfigurations, texture changes, ability to do substitution of textures with 3D objects of corresponding food items etc. The idea builds on the ability to make 1:1 representation of the market itself together with products as textures (picture-based). Supermarket fruit and vegetable shelves as well as cash cafeteria checkout counters are the cases. The real settings are converted to virtual setting and replaced by respective 3D models. The model makes it possible to build interaction scenarios on top of them. The basic features provide ability to pick items, turn them around, place them in a shopping basket and go through the checkout. The ultimate VFCS has the ability of fast prototyping of random foodscapes as 3D worlds with various degrees of interaction. The framework is designed with extendability of flexibility in mind, so that it is possible to build a web based configuration manager to control some aspects of the 3D world. Log data is available for download that will help analyzing behavior of people within mentioned 3D foodscapes.
Exploring Gaming4Health: This part will test the VFCS and its potential to develop nutrition and consumer education tools for young people. The idea is to create a gamified virtual food reality that can be used as a teaching tool for young people in home economics. The target audience is 4-6th graders being 11-12 years of age. Technicalities are as follows. The programming language is Unity. A supermarket has been created here and the source code we have. The hardware includes an Alienware, CTODE3008 Dell Alienware 13 Specialbuilt. Ocolus Rift as well as the custombuilt Walk’n Find leg sensor and the Grab’n Choose glove.The three pieces of software together offers the use the possibily to do a virtual foodscape walkabout So far the the developers kit of Oculus Rift has been used but the new commercial Oculus Rift is expected on the market march 2016. The Grab’n Choose devices is used to choose food from the shelves. The Walk’n Find, the legsensor that does the virtual walking (moon walk). We have that in a “developers” model.
1. Andersen, MR; Brisson, P; Hald, PL; Godtfredsen, D Serafin, S & Mikkelsen BE. Validation of a Virtual Reality Tool to Test Consumer Response in Supermarket Settings. Proceedings of Measuring Behavior 2014, Wageningen, The Netherlands, August 27-29, 2014. Editors: A.J. Spink, L.W.S. Loijens, M. Woloszynowska-Fraser & L.P.J.J. Noldus. www.measuringbehavior.org
2. Cekatauskaite, V; Kwebiiha, PF; Lindum, J; Pawlowski, KD; Sørensen, JR; Vejlund, C; Vilhelmsen, S. & Mikkelsen, BE. Designing a Healthy Supermarket Checkout Aisle Proofing the concept of Virtual Food Choice Simulator. Paper accepted for International Conference on Culinary Arts & Science, Montclair University 2015
3. Waterlander, W.E., Scarpa, M. and Lentz, D. (2011) ‘The virtual supermarket: An innovative research tool to study consumer food purchasing behaviour’, BMC public health, 11(1):589. p.14. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=3160378&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract [Accessed 27 November 2014] .