Virtual and augmented reality: spin-offs for the food industry

Virtual reality and augmented reality are changing the face of the food industry. This 2018 Alter’Native Food conference talk demonstrates this with concrete case studies.

Augmented / virtual reality: just the latest modern development, or a genuine revolution for the food industry of the future?

What are virtual reality and augmented reality all about?

In the auto industry, professionals work in virtual reality to be immersed in an environment enabling them to design and construct the cars of tomorrow. At Audi, the technicians don virtual reality headsets to choose the cockpit, colour and other elements making up the car, as part of the design process.

At Renault, technicians can work on engines in the course of manufacture on the assembly line, and are able by means of a simple gesture to superimpose elements from the construction manual to check that they are correctly assembled.

The food industry is of course also concerned by the phenomenon. Synergiz, a company based in Saint Malo, adjusts machines directly on the manufacturing site in this way, and the Sodexo Group has created a training module to help foodservice managers to train in best practices using virtual reality.

L'utilisation de l'AR/VR aide à l'apprentissage

Since 10 minutes of virtual practice equates to the reading of a 50-page manual, the time saved is considerable. Learning is more fun, users learn by practising, and are allowed to make mistakes and start over, with no real consequences.

With augmented reality, it is possible to see everything that is happening around you with the addition of virtual objects. These objects are superimposed on your surrounding environment. An app developed by Danone, for example, offers a Playmobil game enabling consumers to obtain further information about the yoghurts on sale.

In restaurants, you can scroll through a menu and select your meals while seeing them modelled in 3D on your plate. This offers you a highly realistic representation of the chef’s creation before you place your order.

Read also: The chef is an AI!

Innovations in service of the food industry

Here are some other concrete cases of innovation in the service of the food industry:

  • The Foodvisor start-up, created by three students of the École Centrale Paris engineering and science institute, offers an app that lets you take a photo of your dish and discover its energy content. Artificial intelligence independently detects all the items present, and determines their weight and their calories. Users can then determine if the energy content is sufficient or excessive with respect to their personal diet goals.
  • Coop Supermarché du futur
    In supermarkets, Alibaba is a company dealing in the “phygital”, which makes it possible for shoppers to have some of their purchases delivered later, having had the opportunity to handle them in the store. It is also possible to have your purchases cooked “in-a-click” via your smartphone, and consume them there and then, in a dedicated restaurant section inside the supermarket itself.
  • In Milan, the “Coop” supermarket of the future recently opened for business. It has movement sensors for detecting what customers pick up and generating nutritional information and data about the source of products on raised monitors.
  • Deliveries are also concerned by the phenomenon, since robots and self-driving vehicles are already being designed and tested. The Starship company, in California, has developed little robots which pick up orders placed remotely by customers located 15 minutes away from the restaurants concerned. A security code received via text message lets you unlock the secure compartment and retrieve your meal.
  • Lastly, 3D printers are a booming sector of innovation. In a school canteen in southern England, pupils have worked with their teachers on printing their meals. The tool prints food in geometric shapes designed by the pupils.

To conclude, virtual reality and augmented reality will not replace human beings in the food industry trades, but are designed to assist people in their work and everyday tasks.

Speakers: Jeanne Baron, journalist, and Nicolas Ribeyre, LAVAL VIRTUAL

Focus on Laval Virtual

Laval Virtual is a company based in Laval, a town of some 60,000 inhabitants, with strong food traditions and which is also a hotbed of high-tech. According to Nicolas Ribeyre, Laval Virtual is known “worldwide […]. The Japanese, for example, know about Paris and gourmet cuisine, they know Mont-Saint-Michel, and they know Laval Virtual since so many of them come to the Laval Virtual trade fair every year.” Laval Virtual has a centre dedicated to the study of virtual and augmented reality.

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