Future Everyday Food

How Emerging Technologies Could Impact Food Consumption

Introduction

Industrial design has gone through various stages of development since its emergence during the first industrial revolution,[1] and the kitchen as well as the preparation and consumption of food have always been closely linked to its developments. As technologies evolved, the disciplines related to these technologies manifested their impact on designed products. Starting from mechanical engineering and the development of engines and machines, tableware was one of the first examples of industrially designed and produced consumer goods. Agricultural productivity also increased the availability of products and relieved the need to personally grow and harvest food. After the increase of productivity, functionality became an important concept as put forward by modernist architects and designers. Kitchens were designed to reduce unnecessary effort and supermarkets brought together different types of food and made shopping less time consuming. With electronics entering the field of industrial design, efficiency drove developments in the kitchen further; kitchen appliances, such as blenders or dishwashers, significantly reduced the workload in the kitchen and opened up more time to explore novel ingredients and recipes.

As electronic devices started to connect and information and communication technologies became more dominant, tablets replaced cookbooks, and data is acquired about the use of ingredients and recipes that are made. Ever-increasing connections between data and equipment lead to more personalisation, new experiences and visions of intelligent machines that automatically order ingredients and deliver them or combine them into novel dishes actually already exist. But while developments in the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence resulting from software and hardware revolutions are receiving extensive attention in the fourth industrial revolution, another fifth technological revolution may be about to happen, which could further impact our food consumption as a highly multi-sensorial process. Recent developments in material science, biology and manufacturing technologies predict a materials revolution that will open new avenues for design. In this essay, I discuss four developments, which I illustrate by means of food-related design projects from students and researchers in our programme, and I reflect on what a next step in this process could be.

Personalised Ingredients

Fig. 1 Milk tasting organised by Sietske Klooster for her ‘Melksalon.’

Data science and robotics have a major impact on how we grow our crops and produce food. Mixed cropping, for example, has been proposed as a measure to make better use of soil and reduce the need for pesticides.[2] In contrast to single-crop fields, which were implemented to increase efficiency, crops of different types are placed in parallel rows in the same field, serving as a barrier against certain insects or diseases, with these methods having less environmental impact. This concept can be taken even further by initiatives such as pixel farming, which allows different crops to grow practically alongside each other. Differences in growth patterns due to varying nutrients in the soil, water or light may result in crops with a diversity in properties. Swarms of robots can be used to detect the different crops and rapidly harvest them and deliver them on demand, thereby providing fruits and vegetables with specified properties to consumers. It is already possible to deliver products matching very specific requirements, not only in the production of crops but also in the consumption of products from livestock.

What started as an awareness project regarding the differences in taste of milk depending on the cow and its habitat by Sietske Klooster’s ‘Melksalon’ resulted in Lely Orbiter, a system of robots that enables consumers to consume milk from a very specific cow, and thus with a very specific and unique composition. The breed, the diet, the time after giving birth, and the age of the cow, among others aspects, impact the taste and composition of a cow’s milk. For example, the milk from a younger cow tastes very sweet right after calving. The farming system knows what and when the cow eats, detects when it is in the milking robot, and can separate and process the cow’s milk directly up to the bottle, thus providing a milk with a specific combination of fats, proteins and lactose, and, as a result, a unique taste. Consumers can thus order a milk that matches their dietary needs or are more adequate for specific recipes or pairing.

Digital Manufacturing

Fig. 2 Sweet snacks based on beetroots by Upprinting Food

From the ingredients, we move to the preparation of food, in which robots and advisory systems have already started to find their way into the everyday kitchen with products such as the Thermomix, which combines multiple cooking techniques in one machine and guides the cook through all the steps of a recipe. The only thing it does not do is order the products, and it still requires somebody to put them into the bowl. Although not as ubiquitous, digital fabrication techniques such as 3D printing are also being adopted by chefs and food designers in the food preparation process. The extrusion of consumable paste allows for the creation of novel shapes and textures, and with the introduction of multi-material printing techniques, different ingredients and structures can be combined, resulting, for example, in a chocolate dessert with different types of fillings and patterns, as designed and created by food designer Marijn Roovers, chef Wouter van Laarhoven, and the Dutch technological research organisation, TNO. Many of today’s experiments involving 3D food printing are artistic or playful, but various projects already investigate the potential of tailoring nutritional content to individual health needs.

Beyond richer experiences and health benefits, various projects also claim potential directions for the use of digital fabrication in the area of sustainability. The precision of the fabrication techniques can be used to create textures that allow shapes to change in response to heating or when in contact with liquids (see, for example, the project Transformative Appetite by Wang et al.).[3] The authors discuss how pasta could be transported flat and form into the required shape when prepared, thereby saving a lot of space. What’s more, food that would typically be considered as ugly or unappetising but still suitable for consumption could be repurposed using 3D printing. For example, a project by Elzelinde van de Doleweerd, Upprinting Food, uses typically wasted food such as banana peels or the green leaves of leeks as a basis for pastes and purées that can be printed into novel and attractive shapes for consumption. On a more advanced level, NOVAMEAT explores how to create plant-based products that emulate both the taste and structure of meat. Digital production techniques enable the creation of specific material structures which could simulate the ‘muscle’ density and structures that can be found in the different cuts of meat. In addition, multi-material printing technology can be used to create compositions of different proteins, fats and even other additions which may affect the taste, just like the animal’s diet would typically do. Although bold and promising, many of these projects are still very speculative, and their actual environmental benefits oftentimes still need to be demonstrated.

Multisensorial Experiences

Fig. 3 Texture Modified Snack by Margarita Kuzina (photo by Margarita Kuzina)

As discussed above, digital manufacturing can be used to create novel structures and textures. But the palatability of food is, of course, also determined by its flavour, the chemical composition which defines the five basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami. In addition, the smell, temperature and visual appearance also play an important role, the latter one in particular before food is consumed. Limited variations in the sensory properties of food can have an impact on appetite and food intake—for example, for people with swallowing disorders, such as dysphagia food, whose food needs to be puréed, resulting in unappetising blends. Companies such as Biozoon have developed supplements that allow giving shape to smooth food, thereby making it look like actual food, which dissolves immediately to the appropriate viscosity when in the mouth. Their company mainly targets elderly people in care homes, where swallowing problems are frequently observed. However, continuous consumption of puréed or liquidised foods can also result in bland experiences, as oral processing, such as chewing, also plays an important role in the palatability. The different textures of the food, as well as the sound (e.g., the cracking of crisps) that the food makes[4] when chewed and the effects the chewing has on the muscles in our face, add to our sensory experience.

Kuzina’s Texture Modified Snack uses knowledge from molecular gastronomy, a food science that investigates chemical and physical transitions in ingredients, to create a snack that not only dissolves into the appropriate texture but also uses chemical reactions to create exciting mouth experiences. A porous shell made of meringue holds a squishy sphere filled with liquid, which is made using a well-known method from molecular gastronomy named spherification. Finally, the snack is covered with popping candy. When in the mouth the snack can be crushed by pressing it against the palate with the tongue. Consequently, the structure cracks and the sphere explodes, releasing the liquid into the mouth, while at the same time one can hear the popping of the candy as it provides a tingling sensation. The present concept was made by hand and uses readily available methods and technologies. However, the relevance of this concept is in its novel application (i.e., its use for elderly people with swallowing disorders) and the consideration of digital manufacturing for its production process, which has been demonstrated by D’Angelo et al. (2016).[5] Similar to car design where the top designers develop the new concept cars, this project shows how to translate insights from haute cuisine and make them relevant for a larger consumer potential and important societal challenges.

Temporal Dimension

Fig. 4 Edible Growth by Chloé Rutzerveld (photo by Bart van Overbeeke)

In the previous sections, different examples were discussed on how food transforms over time when prepared (Transformative Appetite) or in the mouth (Kuzina). Food designer Chloé Rutzerveld has taken the concept of time a step further. Where typically natural ingredients, both plant and animal based, grow before they are turned into a dish for consumption, she has explored how prepared food can grow over time. Edible Growth is an eco-system that combines a support structure based on carbohydrates, an agar-agar based soil, with plant seeds and spores, which can be created using a 3D printer. After it has been printed, the little garden is kept in a greenhouse, where it can grow, and the taste of the herbs, for example, get stronger. The consumer can decide when the meal has achieved a state that is preferred for consumption. The concept of time, and in particular how the changes that food can make over time, can be predefined by the designer add a novel dimension to the preparation and consumption of food. This may even be taken a step further if the speed of a transformation increases or can even become reversible. In engineering and material sciences, research is already being conducted into materials that can sense, actuate and compute[6] or respond to their surroundings.[7] In (interaction) design, concepts such as shape-changing interfaces[8] have been proposed to consider devices that can change their physical and material properties; be interactive and computationally controlled; self-actuated and/or user-actuated and convey information, meaning or affect.[9]

Recent developments in synthetic biology, which investigates the design and creation of DNA structures and may even result in a cyber-biological industrial revolution once computational tasks are encoded into DNA,[10] may enable the design of interactive experiences that address our sense of taste. Programming food in such a way that it will have interactive properties could provide for personalised taste sensations—for example, candy that can change its colour and flavour as we interact with it using our tongue and teeth, similar to Roald Dahl’s imagined ‘Everlasting Gobstopper.’ Designing for such interactive experiences will be highly challenging, as these technologies will enable designers to create computational composites that address all of the senses. But this process may be facilitated by generative design tools which are already used in architecture and fashion to create novel structures, based on constraints defined by the designer.

Conclusion

This essay started with the idea that a material revolution is envisioned to become the fifth industrial revolution. Personalised ingredients, digital manufacturing, and programming the behaviour of materials will allow for the creation of personalised and dedicated multisensorial experiences. The vision on cyber-biological systems may take the vision on food design further, as these systems will allow programming food to change its texture, flavour, smell, temperature and appearance as it is consumed. Beyond changes over time, edible materials may be envisioned that adapt as one interacts with them, by manipulating them in the mouth. Such visions may radically change the way in which we will store, prepare and consume our food in the future, and designers will probably be involved in the design of (the behaviour of) these edible materials and identify opportunities for consumption.


Bibliography

Alexander, Jason, Anne Roudaut, Jürgen Steimle, Kasper Hornbæk, Miguel Bruns Alonso, Sean Follmer, and Timothy Merritt, ‘Grand Challenges in Shape-Changing Interface Research.’ CHI ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2018). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173873.

D’Angelo, Greta, Hans N. Hansen, and John Anastasios Hart, ‘Molecular Gastronomy Meets 3D Printing: Layered Construction via Reverse Spherification.’ 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 3, No. 3 (2016): 152-159. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1089/3DP.2016.0024.

McEvoy, Andy and Nikolaus Correll, ‘Materials that Couple Sensing, Actuation, Computation, and Communication.’ Science 347, No. 6228 (2015). DOI: 10.1126/science.1261689.

Peccoud, Jean, ‘Synthetic Biology: Fostering the Cyber-Biological Revolution.’ Synthetic Biology 1, No. 1 (2016). DOI: 10.1093/synbio/ysw001.

Rasmussen, Majken K., Esben W. Pedersen, Marianne G. Petersen, and Kasper Hornbæk, ‘Shape-Changing Interfaces: A Review of the Design Space and Open Research Questions.’ CHI ’12: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2012). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2207781.

Spence, Charles, ‘Auditory Contributions to Flavour Perception and Feeding Behaviour.’ Physiology & Behavior 107, No. 4 (2012): pp. 505-515. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.022.

Stuart, Martien A. Cohen, Wilhelm T. S. Huck, Jan Genzer, Marcus Müller, Christopher Ober, Manfred Stamm, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Igal Szleifer, Vladimir V. Tsukruk, Marek Urban, Françoise Winnik, Stefan Zauscher, Igor Luzinov and Sergiy Minko, ‘Emerging Applications of Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Materials.’ Nature Materials 9 (2010): 101-113. DOI: doi.org/10.1038/nmat2614

Vandermeer, John H., The Ecology of Intercropping. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Wang, Wen, Lining Yao, Teng Zhang, Chin-Yi Cheng, Daniel Levine, and Hiroshi Ishii, ‘Transformative Appetite: Shape-Changing Food Transforms from 2D to 3D by Water Interaction through Cooking.’ CHI ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2017). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3026019


Footnotes

[1] The first industrial revolution involved the mechanisation of production due to the invention of the steam machine; the second industrial revolution involved mass production due to the invention of electric power; the third industrial revolution involved automated production due to the invention of ICT; and the fourth industrial revolution involved further digitisation in so-called cyber-physical systems due to connectivity and artificial intelligence.

[2] Vandermeer, John H., The Ecology of Intercropping (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

[3] Wen Wang, Lining Yao, Teng Zhang, Chin-Yi Cheng, Daniel Levine, and Hiroshi Ishii, ‘Transformative Appetite: Shape-Changing Food Transforms from 2D to 3D by Water Interaction through Cooking.’ CHI ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2017), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3026019.

[4] Charles Spence, ‘Auditory Contributions to Flavour Perception and Feeding Behaviour,’ Physiology & Behavior 107, No. 4 (2012): pp. 505-515, DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.022.

[5] Greta D’Angelo, Hans N. Hansen, and John Anastasios Hart, ‘Molecular Gastronomy Meets 3D Printing: Layered Construction via Reverse Spherification,’ 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 3, No. 3 (2016): 152-159, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1089/3DP.2016.0024.

[6] Andy McEvoy and Nikolaus Correll, ‘Materials that Couple Sensing, Actuation, Computation, and Communication,’ Science 347, No. 6228 (2015), DOI: 10.1126/science.1261689.

[7] Martien A. Cohen Stuart, Wilhelm T. S. Huck, Jan Genzer, Marcus Müller, Christopher Ober, Manfred Stamm, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Igal Szleifer, Vladimir V. Tsukruk, Marek Urban, Françoise Winnik, Stefan Zauscher, Igor Luzinov and Sergiy Minko, ‘Emerging Applications of Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Materials,’ Nature Materials 9 (2010): 101-113, DOI: doi.org/10.1038/nmat2614

[8] Majken K. Rasmussen, Esben W. Pedersen, Marianne G. Petersen, and Kasper Hornbæk, ‘Shape-Changing Interfaces: A Review of the Design Space and Open Research Questions,’ CHI ’12: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2012), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2207781.

[9] Jason Alexander, Anne Roudaut, Jürgen Steimle, Kasper Hornbæk, Miguel Bruns Alonso, Sean Follmer, and Timothy Merritt, ‘Grand Challenges in Shape-Changing Interface Research,’ CHI ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2018), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173873.

[10] Jean Peccoud, ‘Synthetic Biology: Fostering the Cyber-Biological Revolution,’ Synthetic Biology 1, No. 1 (2016), DOI: 10.1093/synbio/ysw001.

Miguel Bruns Alonso

Miguel Bruns Alonso is Associate Professor in the Future Everyday Group of the Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology. He investigates the aesthetics and emotional expressivity of interactive products with programmable material qualities (interactive materiality), with a focus on haptic and shape-changing interfaces. He teaches courses relating to creativity, designing form, aesthetics of interaction and interactive form/materiality and how this affects perception and behaviour. Miguel holds a PhD on affective tangible interaction and an M.Sc. in Industrial Design Engineering from TU Delft and was a visiting researcher and lecturer at Aarhus University, Taiwan Tech, and Stanford University. 

Bibliography

Alexander, Jason, Anne Roudaut, Jürgen Steimle, Kasper Hornbæk, Miguel Bruns Alonso, Sean Follmer, and Timothy Merritt, ‘Grand Challenges in Shape-Changing Interface Research.’ CHI ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2018). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173873.

D’Angelo, Greta, Hans N. Hansen, and John Anastasios Hart, ‘Molecular Gastronomy Meets 3D Printing: Layered Construction via Reverse Spherification.’ 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 3, No. 3 (2016): 152-159. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1089/3DP.2016.0024.

McEvoy, Andy and Nikolaus Correll, ‘Materials that Couple Sensing, Actuation, Computation, and Communication.’ Science 347, No. 6228 (2015). DOI: 10.1126/science.1261689.

Peccoud, Jean, ‘Synthetic Biology: Fostering the Cyber-Biological Revolution.’ Synthetic Biology 1, No. 1 (2016). DOI: 10.1093/synbio/ysw001.

Rasmussen, Majken K., Esben W. Pedersen, Marianne G. Petersen, and Kasper Hornbæk, ‘Shape-Changing Interfaces: A Review of the Design Space and Open Research Questions.’ CHI ’12: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2012). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2207781.

Spence, Charles, ‘Auditory Contributions to Flavour Perception and Feeding Behaviour.’ Physiology & Behavior 107, No. 4 (2012): pp. 505-515. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.022.

Stuart, Martien A. Cohen, Wilhelm T. S. Huck, Jan Genzer, Marcus Müller, Christopher Ober, Manfred Stamm, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Igal Szleifer, Vladimir V. Tsukruk, Marek Urban, Françoise Winnik, Stefan Zauscher, Igor Luzinov and Sergiy Minko, ‘Emerging Applications of Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Materials.’ Nature Materials 9 (2010): 101-113. DOI: doi.org/10.1038/nmat2614

Vandermeer, John H., The Ecology of Intercropping. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Wang, Wen, Lining Yao, Teng Zhang, Chin-Yi Cheng, Daniel Levine, and Hiroshi Ishii, ‘Transformative Appetite: Shape-Changing Food Transforms from 2D to 3D by Water Interaction through Cooking.’ CHI ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2017). Accessed August 3, 2020. DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3026019


Footnotes

[1] The first industrial revolution involved the mechanisation of production due to the invention of the steam machine; the second industrial revolution involved mass production due to the invention of electric power; the third industrial revolution involved automated production due to the invention of ICT; and the fourth industrial revolution involved further digitisation in so-called cyber-physical systems due to connectivity and artificial intelligence.

[2] Vandermeer, John H., The Ecology of Intercropping (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

[3] Wen Wang, Lining Yao, Teng Zhang, Chin-Yi Cheng, Daniel Levine, and Hiroshi Ishii, ‘Transformative Appetite: Shape-Changing Food Transforms from 2D to 3D by Water Interaction through Cooking.’ CHI ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2017), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3026019.

[4] Charles Spence, ‘Auditory Contributions to Flavour Perception and Feeding Behaviour,’ Physiology & Behavior 107, No. 4 (2012): pp. 505-515, DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.04.022.

[5] Greta D’Angelo, Hans N. Hansen, and John Anastasios Hart, ‘Molecular Gastronomy Meets 3D Printing: Layered Construction via Reverse Spherification,’ 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 3, No. 3 (2016): 152-159, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1089/3DP.2016.0024.

[6] Andy McEvoy and Nikolaus Correll, ‘Materials that Couple Sensing, Actuation, Computation, and Communication,’ Science 347, No. 6228 (2015), DOI: 10.1126/science.1261689.

[7] Martien A. Cohen Stuart, Wilhelm T. S. Huck, Jan Genzer, Marcus Müller, Christopher Ober, Manfred Stamm, Gleb B. Sukhorukov, Igal Szleifer, Vladimir V. Tsukruk, Marek Urban, Françoise Winnik, Stefan Zauscher, Igor Luzinov and Sergiy Minko, ‘Emerging Applications of Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Materials,’ Nature Materials 9 (2010): 101-113, DOI: doi.org/10.1038/nmat2614

[8] Majken K. Rasmussen, Esben W. Pedersen, Marianne G. Petersen, and Kasper Hornbæk, ‘Shape-Changing Interfaces: A Review of the Design Space and Open Research Questions,’ CHI ’12: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2012), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2207781.

[9] Jason Alexander, Anne Roudaut, Jürgen Steimle, Kasper Hornbæk, Miguel Bruns Alonso, Sean Follmer, and Timothy Merritt, ‘Grand Challenges in Shape-Changing Interface Research,’ CHI ’18: Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2018), accessed August 3, 2020, DOI: doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173873.

[10] Jean Peccoud, ‘Synthetic Biology: Fostering the Cyber-Biological Revolution,’ Synthetic Biology 1, No. 1 (2016), DOI: 10.1093/synbio/ysw001.