Last week, Forbes, my go-to source for occasionally boosterish tech coverage, published an article entitled “Why Virtual Eating Will Soon Be On The Menu For Weight Loss Industry.” Huh! A bold claim.
It's penned by contributor Michael Wolf, a man who describes himself as “searching for the next billion-dollar technology market.” (He's the proprietor of The Spoon, a blog dedicated to food tech that he directly quotes from—without disclosing the fact that he's its publisher.) The content of the article doesn't contain much more than abstractly-worded musings on how virtual reality—an industry that prides itself on sly, stunt-like verisimilitude—may, perhaps, one day, maybe in the future, maybe not, who even knows, we're just spitballing here, be used for weight loss. "While these are early days for virtual eating, I have a suspicion that it won’t be long before this research is commercialized for weight loss applications," Wolf writes.
Is virtual reality the future?
Everyone, since the beginning of time
Well, Michael, I have good news. I dug a bit deeper and came upon Project Nourished, a company that's created a "gastronomical virtual reality experience" for consumers. It's already received its fairshare of coverage, some of it quite positive—even in the pages of Forbes! Project Nourished harnesses the very philosophy that Wolf surmises could be "a thing," removing the guilt from eating foods that bring us pleasure yet still purporting to keep eating's innate sensations intact.
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Scrolling through the website, I found the promotional video for the company, which...hm. There's a lot going on here.
I worry there's still an overwhelming perception that VR is too aggressively futuristic to permeate the mainstream consciousness, fears that this video didn't assuage. And I have some reservations about the supposition that eating should be guilt-free. But I guess I'm down to try it.
Would you try virtual eating? Let me know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.