University Experiment Reveals that VR Affects How Your Food Tastes

Our surroundings affect the taste of the food we eat. We get sensory input; what we smell, see, hear, and remember can influence our perception. For instance, a croissant you eat while dining al fresco in Paris will seem richer and flakier than the one you eat inside the mall — even if you bought them from the same bakery. But, what happens if the food taster is immersed in a hyper-realistic VR environment? Is the effect similar to real-life? Research from Cornell University suggests that yes, VR affects how your food tastes.

What happened

To answer their study’s biggest question, the researchers formed a panel which consists of 50 people wearing virtual reality headsets. They immersed the participants in three VR environments: in a drab sensory booth, a pleasant park bench, and in Cornell’s cow barn. The researchers provided them with a blue cheese sample in every 360-degree VR environment. The panellists are unaware that all the cheese samples they ate were identical.

And, guess what?

Majority of them said that the blue cheese they ate inside Cornell’s cow barn is more pungent than the ones they ate inside a virtual sensory booth and park.

Interesting results, considering that the cheese samples are the same.

The researchers also asked the panellists to rate the saltiness of all three samples and there was no statistical difference across the three VR environments.


University Experiment Reveals that VR Affects How Your Food Tastes


VR can alter the taste of food, now what?

Finding out that the blue cheese tasted better on a virtual farm as compared to a boring, empty tasting booth means something for the food manufacturing industry.

  1. Manufacturers can immerse their food sensory evaluators in different environments, thus gathering more data which helps them improve the taste of the product.
  2. Free taste counters in groceries can use VR to stimulate the appetite of the buyer. If the shopper likes the product, they will buy the product right after tasting it.

This research proves that food manufacturers can use VR to improve their products. With it,  pasta sauce can taste like it’s made in Italy and an instant noodle can taste like authentic Japanese ramen.

For more information, read the Dynamic Context Sensory Testing–A Proof of Concept Study Bringing Virtual Reality to the Sensory Booth by Robin Dando, Alina Stelick, Alexandra Penano, and Alden Riak.