29th March 2017 Chloe Morris

Hacking flavour perception II design, technology, & gastrophysics

On Monday we left London on the 7:10am on a Oxford Tube bus to Somerville College at Oxford University. The line up promised great things – and it definitely delivered. Because we gathered SO MUCH information, we thought it would be best to break down the content into various posts that will feature over the next couple of months. That way we can go into more juicy detail. Until then, we wanted to leave you with the information provided to us by Oxford University. Enjoy!


Event Description:

While enjoying a meal, our brain continuously combines information about what is detected by the tongue with what we smell, not to mention the expectations set by what we see, hear, and feel. Traditionally, researchers thought that the sensory cues that combine to deliver flavour all originated from the food and drink itself. Nowadays, though, chefs, culinary artists, experience designers, and researchers working in technology are increasingly starting to hack our experiences of flavour (hacking the food; hacking the context in which that food is presented; and hacking the senses of the person consuming it): Everything from sonically seasoning your food through to augmented and virtual reality dining experiences. This workshop brings together practitioners and researchers from a number of different fields in order to investigate how our understanding of multi sensory flavor perception (of flavour objects) is being challenged and extended. Hopefully, you will not only get to hear, but also to taste, some of the latest insights and innovations in this fast-moving area.


10:10 Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

Opening remarks: Hacking flavour perception

10:30 Prof. Katsunori Okajima (Yokohama National University, Japan)

Augmented Reality (AR) & Projection Mapping Food and Drink: Enhancing the Experience with Technology

11:15 Dr. Sebastian Ahnert (University of Cambridge)

The flavour network

13:00 Steve Keller (iV audio branding, Nashville, Tennessee)

Sonic Seasoning: Designing crossmodally congruent soundscapes that tickle your ears and your taste buds

13:30 Dr. Vaiva Kalnikaitė (Nu Food, Cambridge)

The shape of taste to come

13:55 Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlor, London; http://parlourkensal.com)

Theatrical dining: Hacking the diner’s mind by playing with nostalgia and performance at the table

14:20 Demos 

Sarah Hyndman: Tasting typeface

Simon Spence: Bread – Can you taste the difference?

Vaiva Kalnikaitė & Tom Gayler: 3D food printing

Singh’s gin tasting

Kitchen Theory: Colourful jelly tasting

15:00 Prof. Francis McGlone (Liverpool John Moores University)

Brain’s go beyond physics: A notes & chords view of multisensory flavour perception


15:30 Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

Gastrophysics: Measuring the impact of design & technology on multisensory flavour experiences

16:00 Chef Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory, London; https://www.kitchen-theory.com)

Gastrophysics: Putting theory into practice– Does the science constrain or promote creativity in the kitchen?


Hacking Flavour Perception: Art, Design, Technology, & Gastrophysics


Prof. Katsunori Okajima (Yokohama National University, Japan)

Food appearance and the environment are critical factors that affect the feeling of the deliciousness of the dishes. However, the effects of food appearance have been unclear because it is difficult to prepare the same foods with different appearances. Therefore, we developed an Augmented Reality (AR) system with a Head-Mounted Display (HMD) that can modify the texture and/or the color of food and drink in real time and keeping the food intact. We conducted a series of experiments designed to investigate how the visual texture and appearance of food and drink influences taste and flavor perceptions. The results demonstrated that people’s perception of food can be modulated by changing the color or the texture of the visual image. Moreover, we developed another Augmented-Reality (AR) system that can modify the appearance of the food and the dish by projecting an artificial image on the food and the dish in real-time. The image of a moving food on a dish was captured with a camera, and a digital projector projected a texture image on the actual food. Results of the subjective experiment showed that the sweetness is significantly modified by controlling just only saturation of the food color without changing the food itself, suggesting that the projective-AR system must be useful for controlling diet and for designing food appearance. Finally, I will introduce a novel modification method of food appearance by using image filters based on the human visual mechanism. This method allows us to control freshness, transparency and doneness etc. of the food naturally and arbitrarily.

[Acknowledgment: This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number JP15H05926]


Dr. Sebastian Ahnert (University of Cambridge)

The cultural diversity of culinary practice, as illustrated by the variety of regional cuisines, raises the question of whether there are any general patterns that determine the ingredient combinations used in food today or principles that transcend individual tastes and recipes. We introduce a flavour network that captures the flavour compounds shared by culinary ingredients. Western cuisines show a tendency to use ingredient pairs that share many flavour compounds, supporting the so-called food-pairing hypothesis. By contrast, East Asian cuisines tend to avoid compound sharing ingredients. Given the increasing availability of information on food preparation, our data-driven investigation opens new avenues towards a systematic understanding of culinary practice. Leading on from this we discuss a variety of further datasets on food ingredients and flavour compounds, including chef-curated flavour pairings, aroma compound concentrations, olfactory detection thresholds, and olfactory receptor responses, and illustrate how these datasets can be combined using large-scale data analysis in order to provide a deeper understanding of the impact that shared aroma compounds can have on perceived ingredient compatibility.


Steve Keller (iV audio branding, Nashville, Tennessee)

Over the past few years, research into crossmodal relationships (or correspondences) between sound and taste has opened the door to exciting new applications of sound in the culinary arts. From gastrophysics and Sensploration to sonic seasonings and flavour DJs, Steve Keller explores the theory and practice of eating with our ears.


Dr. Vaiva Kalnikaitė (Nu Food, Cambridge)

We are amazing at building things out of solid materials, but we are not so comfortable with making things out of liquids. Yet we are surrounded by living things which can be more than 60% liquid. In this presentation, I’ll explore how to design and build robots that can help us manipulate liquid and use it to make shapes and add texture and flavour to accessorize our food and drink experiences. I will also explore the design of digital utensils to better suit the properties of liquids when served as part of dining.


Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlor, London; http://parlourkensal.com)

Jesse will talk about ‘The fun factor’ when entertaining at meal times, and the underrated value of performance, humor, surprise, and intrigue at the dinner table.


Prof. Francis McGlone (Liverpool John Moores University)

In the early 1900’s a psychologist by the name of I. M. Bentley carried out a series of ‘touch blend’ experiments in which he demonstrated that brains go beyond physics when it comes to the skin senses. The recognition that perception is often an illusion will be developed further when it comes to oral sensory processing where it will be shown that understanding the full physical and chemical properties of a sensory stimulus can often tell you nothing about how such matter will be dealt with by the brain i.e. how it will ‘taste’. Perhaps why cooking is an art rather than a science …….until now…..


Prof. Charles Spence (University of Oxford)

PART ONE: Back in 2011, philosopher Peter Ludlow suggested that modernist cuisine could be seen as a form of ‘food hacking’. Of course, long before molecular gastronomy / modernist cuisine, the Italian Futurists were suggesting a number of intriguing ways in which to play with multisensory dining experiences. This workshop will explore some of the ways in which designers and those working with the latest in technology are increasingly starting to hack our food and drink experiences. While it may not yet be possible to turn water into wine (by hacking the flavour experience), culinary artists, chefs, designers, technologists, and scientists (gastrophysicists) are becoming ever-more successful in their attempts at modifying our food experiences – be it to deliver more stimulating, more memorable, more sustainable, and/or healthier food and beverage experiences. In this workshop, we are lucky to have been able to bring together a number of those working at the forefront of technological development, design, and culinary artistry to share their enthusiasm, experiences, and learnings in this area.

PART TWO: In this talk, I will review a number of the most exciting examples of food hacking that have not been discussed previously during the day. I will also highlight how the gastrophysics approach, combining gastronomy and psychophysics, is increasingly helping chefs and other culinary experience designers to make better evidence-based decisions around the optimal design of food and beverage experiences.


Chef Jozef Youssef (Kitchen Theory, London; https://www.kitchen-theory.com)

Kitchen Theory has dedicated its efforts towards using the emerging science of gastrophysics as the main focus of our research and inspiration behind our multisensory dining experiences. This talk will highlight a number of dishes which have been developed based on scientific research and executed by collaborating with various partners and engaging the use of new technologies to create immersive, memorable, and delicious multisensory tasting journeys for our guests at The Gastrophysics Chef’s Table in London. I will share the way in which we use gastrophysics to help nudge our guests toward an appreciation of more sustainable sources of food.

All content was provided by Oxford University