Multisensory Experiences: A Primer

From the primer: “We present a primer on multisensory experiences, the different components of this concept, as well as a reflection of its implications for individuals and society. We define multisensory experiences, illustrate how to understand them, elaborate on the role of technology in such experiences, and present the three laws of multisensory experiences, which can guide discussion on their implications. Further, we introduce the case of multisensory experiences in the context of eating and human-food interaction to illustrate how its components operationalize. We expect that this article provides a first point of contact for those interested in multisensory experiences, as well as multisensory experiences in the context of human-food interaction.” (Carlos Velasco and Marianna Obrist, 2021)

More articles on Perspectives on Multisensory Human-Food Interaction.

Food & Eating Design

Or how designers and design thinking could add value to the food industry at large.

“The Food & Eating Design Lab (director Rick Schifferstein) brings together designers and researchers with stakeholders in agriculture, the food industry, the hospitality sector, health professionals and any others who try to improve people’s interactions with their daily foods.

(…) food consumption issues could benefit from innovative thinking and design solutions to face these important everyday challenges. However, the contribution of designers to innovation in the food sector thus far seems to be relatively small. Up to now, the food industry seems quite unfamiliar with the ways in which designers operate and may be unaware of the added value they may have.”

With some interesting projects and publications.

Now We’re Cooking With Lasers

“Researchers at Columbia Engineering have digitised food creation and cooking processes, using 3D printing technology to tailor food shape and texture and lasers of various wavelengths to cook it.” (Source: CACM) – I wonder what that does to the experience of dining.

Gastronomy: A source of inspiration for UX design

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

Today, I delivered my presentation at the EuroIA 2010 in Paris on the relation between my two passions: gastronomy and user experience design.

FoodUX served its purpose as a collection of background materials for the presentation. In future times, I will keep maintaining @CompCook as much as possible. So, keep tuning in once in a while.

“A crazy topic with a scary video clip of a positive eating experience”, I said in my impersonation as Lars Von Trier!

And What About Taste?

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Taste is a very important driver of the eating experience and a complex human phenomenon. It has been a topic of scientific research and philosophical discussion.

Research on Taste

The mission of the Taste Science Laboratory in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University is to elucidate the nature and impact of individual differences in perception – in particular, differences in taste and smell sensitivity – on personality, performance, and preferences.

In its first definition, the American Heritage Dictionary limits the tastes perceived by the taste buds to four: in fact there are at least six in addition to the classic four, there are the taste of fat, and a taste called umami. Umami means delicious in Japanese, and is the word for the savory taste of meat. In this way, our taste buds are designed to tell us about the nutritional qualities of the food we eat: sweet for ripe fruit and carbohydrates, sour for unripe fruit and vitamin C, salty for salt and other minerals, bitter for poisonous plants, umami for protein, and fat for fat!

The second definition, which includes smell and touch, is the one most people have in mind when they talk about the taste of a food; taste, in this sense, means flavor.

Taste and Philosophy

As part of my holiday reading list, I purchased Making Sense of Taste: Food & Philosoph by Carolyn Korsmeyer.

“Taste, perhaps the most intimate of the five senses, has traditionally been considered beneath the concern of philosophy, too bound to the body, too personal and idiosyncratic. Yet, in addition to providing physical pleasure, eating and drinking bear symbolic and aesthetic value in human experience, and they continually inspire writers and artists.”

Really looking forward reading it.

Concepts for a dynamic, multi-sensorial eating experience

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Just when Catalonian chef Ferran Adrià announced that his world famous restaurant El Bulli will be closed permanently, another Spanish chef takes center stage.

During the 8th international gastronomy summit, MadridFusión, world renowned Michelin star chef Juan Mari Arzak of the famous Arzak restaurant in Spain and Philips Design presented a series of concepts intended not only to delight palates, but also evoke emotion and stimulate the senses.

The sensual enjoyment of flavors, the appreciation of harmonies and the recognition of nuances all combine to create the unique pleasure of the dining table. In its latest Design ProbeMulti-sensorial Gastronomy – Philips Design has explored how the integration of light, conductive printing, selective fragrance diffusion, micro-vibration and a host of other integrations of sensory stimuli could affect the eating experience in subtle ways.

Lunar Eclipse (bowl), Fama (long plate) and Tapa de Luz (serving plate) are made from bone china and familiar objects from our everyday lives. However when liquid is poured into the bowl or food is placed on the plates, they begin to shine. A glowing light subtly appears from the bottom of the bowl and plates creating a new sensory dining experience as the senses are stimulated and altered. The series uses bone china and involves the integration of lighting, conductive printing, selective fragrance discharge, micro-vibration, electro stimulus and a host of other sensory stimuli that affect the food and the diner in subtle ways.

Also read this short interview with Juan Mari Arzak on the essential role of design, creativity and innovation in gastronomic cuisine.

Anybody Can Do It

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Recently, Jakob Nielsen published one of his Alertbox posts with the title Anybody Can Do Usability. In this post, he made a comparison between cooking and usability.

According to Jakob, usability is like cooking dinner:

  • Everybody needs the outcome;
  • Anybody can perform the most basic activities;
  • Anyone can learn these basics pretty quickly;
  • There’s a level of excellence beyond the basics;
  • Skill levels form a continuum from beginner to expert.

The cooking analogy stretches even further:

  • Although multi-star gourmet restaurants are wonderful, there’s also a place in the world for modest neighborhood restaurants.
  • Even if you can afford it, you shouldn’t eat out every day.
  • Variety is the spice of life.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have others do the work.
  • There’s value to being an outsider who’s not restrained by corporate politics or “the way things are usually done.”

So like cooking, anybody can do usability; the basic methods are simple enough.

Harmony and Balance as High-Order Design Principles

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Two high-order qualities of compelling user experiences revolve around the principles of harmony and balance. People feel at ease experiencing these. Unfortunately, high-order principles aren’t discussed in the user experience domain extensively.

Reading this article by Jennifer Farley (Sitepoint) on balance as a design principle and finding this blogpost on Washoku cooking and design by Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen) inspired me to learn more on how principles of Japanese cooking can improve my designs for experiences.

In Japanese cuisine, the Power of Five rules. Five principles outline the ideal components of every meal. Each principle is a list of five items which should all be present for a nutritionally, visually, spiritually balanced meal, with no single component overpowering the others.

  • Harmony in color. Washoku meals include foods that are red, yellow, green, black and white. This is not only visually pleasing, but a great way to be sure you are getting a good nutritional balance with your meal.
  • Harmony in palate. By having a balance of salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy foods, a washoku-style meal is thoroughly satisfying to the entire palate.
  • Harmony in cooking method. Washoku-style meals use several different methods of cooking in each meal: simmering, searing, steaming, raw, and sauteeing or frying.
  • Harmony in the senses. Each meal should please the five senses: taste, sight, sound, smell and touch (texture).
  • Harmony in the outlook. This is a philisophical idea that when eating we should attempt, first to respect the efforts of all those who contributed their toil to cultivating and preparing our food; second, to do good deeds worthy of receiving such nourishment; third, to come to the table without ire; fourth, to eat for spiritual as well as temporal well-being; and fifth, to be serious in our struggle to attain enlightenment.

Elisabeth Andoh (author of Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen) says: “Selecting ingredients at their peak of seasonal flavor, choosing locally available foods from both the land and the sea, appealing to and engaging all the senses, using a collage of color, employing a variety of food preparations, and assembling an assortment of flavors – a Washoku approach to cooking gives the creative and contemplative cook an opportunity to satisfy his or her own aesthetic hunger while providing sustenance and sensory pleasure to others.”

I immediately ordered her book.

Philips Food Design Probes

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The combination of design and food can be very fruitful for people and companies. They get a lot of inspiration from it and take it as metaphor, domain or just for the fun of it.

Armin Hofmann from the art blog ‘today and tomorrow‘ reports on one example, the Food Design Probes from consumer electronics company Royal Philips.

“Food Design Probes is a research project by Philips. They developed ideas how we will eat and source our food in the future, like in 15 to 20 years. There are 3 products we might have in our homes by then:

  • The Nutrition Monitor. It basically has 3 parts, a sensor which you have to swallow, a scanner which can measure the nutritional value of food and a display device. So you’ll exactly know what your body needs and what kind of effect your food will have on it.
  • The Food Printer. Remember the 3D sugar printer? Well, this is the next generation. The machine brings molecular gastronomy to your kitchen. ‘Feed’ is with some ingredients, pick a shape, let it print … and voilà your amazing 3D dish is ready. I can’t wait to see all the opensource 3D recipes that will be available!
  • The Biosphere Home Farm. It’s a 21st century aquarium crossed with stylish shelving unit, it contains fish, plants and other mini ecosystems.”

Let’s see if this consumer electronics company can deliver some great designs from this far-future research and food inspiration.