The Future of Food

For MDes at The Glasgow School of Art

The Future of Food is a design project combining research and speculation to explore the future of food on behalf of Toshiba and in collaboration with Chiba University, and Parson's New School. This project identified design opportunities for the internet of things, and how it could facilitate new experiences in relation to food and our changing urban habitat. Food is far from just about taste and nutrition - it is a matter of politics, identity, emotions, traditions, stories, memories, and values.

They determine how we experience flavours together with our senses. With our design concept Food Tab, my team and I distilled these insights into an experience of the urban environment as food source and of making people more aware of senses other than taste involved in experiencing food. I travelled to Tokyo where I presented Food Tab at Toshiba's headquarters, and took part in a design sprint with Chiba University and Parsons New School.

Design Concept: Food Tab

Food Tab is the result of speculating about new possibilities for interactions between people, plants and animals, and experimenting with ways to make people notice the unseen city. We wanted to allow people to develop relationships with the wonders of urban wildnerness they walk past every day and eavesdrop on the life of their non-human neighbours. Widening the pinhole of our human perspective might shift the way we think about nature, from something distant and abstract, to something real, at once annoying and beautiful. We wanted to create an experience that is part nature lesson and part love letter to the world's urban jungles.

Research Findings and Design Brief

When it comes to food, the Internet of Things is currently mostly used in agriculture, with sensors to monitor and predict behaviour of fields and lfiestock, and automate caring for them. When we eat, the place around us, the people we are with, what we smell and hear, what we feel, what we remember, what we know about the dish and its ingredients, and the stories we hear about this food all become part of our experience.

Food has complex and often political meaning for people, it goes beyond simply nutrition. There is an opportunity to design interactions through food. Already, people share food when they come together to celebrate, to mourn, or jsut to be amongst friends and family.

People often perceive food from rural areas as the ideal and romanticise it. Yet a lof ot 'good food' comes from cities. Food is a medium to convey memories, messages, and meaning. Chefs create menus that remind us of past meals but also make us curious to try new dishes. And fusion foods combine two cultures' tastes and tell the story of travel and immigration.

How it might work

A taste sensor detects and quantifies chemical features producing similar human taste sensations. Different taste values are assigned particular musical elements. An audio is rendered and uploaded to a server, creating an mp3 which can be downloaded by the user.