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Exploring the Design Space for Human-Food-Technology Interaction: An Approach from the Lens of Eating Experiences

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Abstract

Embedded in everyday practices, food can be a rich resource for interaction design. This article focuses on eating experiences to uncover how bodily, sensory, and socio-cultural aspects of eating can be better leveraged for the design of user experience. We report a systematic literature review of 109 papers, and interviews with 18 professional chefs, providing new understandings of prior HFI research, as well as how professional chefs creatively design eating experiences. The findings inform a conceptual framework of designing for user experience leveraging eating experiences. These findings also inform implications for HFI design suggesting the value of multisensory flavor experiences, external and internal sensory stimulation and deprivation, aspects of eating for communicating meaning, and designing with contrasting pleasurable and uncomfortable experiences. The article concludes with six charts as novel generative design tools for HFI experiences focused on sensory, emotional, communicative, performative, and temporal experiences.

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Among the five primary senses, the sense of taste is the least explored as a form of digital media applied in Human-Computer Interface. This article presents an experimental instrument, the Digital Lollipop, for digitally simulating the sensation of taste (gustation) by utilizing electrical stimulation on the human tongue. The system is capable ofmanipulating the properties of electric currents (magnitude, frequency, and polarity) to formulate different stimuli. To evaluate the effectiveness of this method, the system was experimentally tested in two studies. The first experiment was conducted using separate regions of the human tongue to record occurrences of basic taste sensations and their respective intensity levels. The results indicate occurrences of sour, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations from different regions of the tongue. One of the major discoveries of this experiment was that the sweet taste emerges via an inverse-current mechanism, which deserves further research in the future. The second study was conducted to compare natural and artificial (virtual) sour taste sensations and examine the possibility of effectively controlling the artificial sour taste at three intensity levels (mild, medium, and strong). The proposed method is attractive since it does not require any chemical solutions and facilitates further research opportunities in several directions including human-computer interaction, virtual reality, food and beverage, as well as medicine.
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Recent research demonstrates the existence of a number of surprising associations (otherwise known as crossmodal correspondences) between seemingly non-related features in different sensory modalities, such as between basic tastes and colours. These correspondences have been incorporated into a dish called ‘The Four Tastes’ by chef Jozef Youssef. The dish is presented with four separate elements, each having a distinctive colour. Diners are instructed to match the colour to the appropriate taste (bitter, sweet, salty and sour). After establishing the association, the modernist chef, molecular mixologist, food designer or culinary artist can then either choose to design tasting experiences that align with these crossmodal correspondences or else play against them (to create incongruency and surprise). The former strategy typically leads to increased liking, possibly as a result of the diner being able to process the sensory information more fluently. The latter, by contrast, can elicit disconfirmed expectations, which can result in positive or negative experiences. While surprise is something that a growing number of diners are coming to expect when they visit a modernist restaurant, it tends to be a much harder approach to implement successfully in other contexts. Here, we present the literature on colour/taste correspondences, and discuss the implications of crossmodal (in)congruence in food design.
Conference Paper
This paper joins the ubiquitous computing scholarship that investigates the use of technologies in collocated shared settings like family mealtime. Family mealtimes are an important site for fostering togetherness, sharing everyday experiences, and nurturing familial ties. While technologies, especially television and personal devices are often criticized for disrupting the social aspects of mealtimes, they are widely available and commonly used nevertheless. In this paper, we explore this tension and present a novel system TableTalk, which transforms personal devices into a communal shared display on the table to enrich mealtime interactions and experience. Our field study shows that TableTalk does not undermine togetherness, but supports familial expectations and experiences by stimulating conversation, reminiscing, bonding, education, and socializing. We discuss how technology that is sensitive to the needs of family interactions can augment the commensal experience and reflect on design choices and opportunities that contribute, rather than disrupt, family mealtimes.
Conference Paper
This paper presents the interaction material profile, a novel structural approach that supports a material-centered analysis of how physical materials affect human-computer interaction from different perspectives and on different levels. Inspired by material dimensions as discussed in product design and in a material-iconographic approach to understand how materials create meanings in artworks, this profile defines a micro and a macro perspective on interaction materials and includes general as well as application-specific material aspects. It builds a model to compare and discuss the role of physical materials in existing user interfaces and serves as a structure to build a catalogue of selected interaction materials.
Conference Paper
Focusing on food as a platform for everyday science, this paper details our fieldwork with practitioners who routinely experiment with preserving, fermenting, brewing, pickling, foraging for, and healing with food. We engage with these at-home science initiatives as community-driven efforts to construct knowledge and envision alternatives to top-down modes of production. Our findings detail the motivations, challenges, and workarounds behind these practices, as well as participants' hybrid lay-professional knowledge, and the iterative mechanisms by which their expertise is scaffolded. Our paper contributes to CHI's amateur/citizen science research by examining how social, digital, and physical materials shape scientific literacy; and to sustainable HCI by presenting habitual practice as an alternative (bottom-up) form of food production and preservation.
Conference Paper
Flavor is often a pleasurable sensory perception we experience daily while eating and drinking. However, the sensation of flavor is rarely considered in the age of digital communication mainly due to the unavailability of flavors as a digitally controllable media. This paper introduces a digital instrument (Digital Flavor Synthesizing device), which actuates taste (electrical and thermal stimulation) and smell sensations (controlled scent emitting) together to simulate different flavors digitally. A preliminary user experiment is conducted to study the effectiveness of this method with predefined five different flavor stimuli. Experimental results show that the users were effectively able to identify different flavors such as minty, spicy, and lemony. Moreover, we outline several challenges ahead along with future possibilities of this technology. In summary, our work demonstrates a novel controllable instrument for flavor simulation, which will be valuable in multimodal interactive systems for rendering virtual flavors digitally.
Conference Paper
This paper analyzes the robotic gallery installation A Piece of the Pie Chart. The project addresses gender inequity in the tech world. It consists of a computer workstation and a food robot. The food robot puts pie charts onto edible, pre-baked pies. They depict the gender gap in technical environments. Visitors use the robot to create pies. Pictures of the pies are disseminated via Twitter, and the physical pies are mailed to the places where the data originated. In the following text, the author disassembles the machine in the context of feminist theory, feminist technology research, visualization, and political robotics.
Conference Paper
To create a truly immersive virtual experience, perceiving information through multiple human senses is important. Therefore, new forms of media are required that deeply involve various human senses -not only sight, sound, and touch, but also nontraditional senses like taste and smell- to create a perception of presence in a non-physical environment. However, at present, the sensation of taste is considered as one of the final frontiers of immersive media to be achieved. This paper discusses key aspects and opportunities of including the sensation of taste in the future of immersive media technologies. As a solution, we then present 'Taste+' utensils that digitally enhance the taste sensations of food and beverages without additional flavoring ingredients. Finally, we envision several future usage scenarios and challenges of the indicated technology to facilitate future immersive digital experiences.