Food Replicator

While the interest of HCI community in food and food practices is increasing, applications and research mostly focus on resilience and efficiency: minimizing waste, reducing emissions, well-being and so on. Beyond these system-centred approaches, there are opportunities to leverage food experiences and open up new design spaces for human interactions, communications, and connections.

We wanted to explore recent phenomenological approaches both in interaction design and food experience. The first one has led to a proliferation of embodied, embedded and tangible interfaces, while the latter states that taste is not a mystified internal process, but relates to the external objects of food. We re-imagined a ubiquitous tool, the pepper grinder, as a tangible interface to “transmit” a flavour (i.e. “pepperness”). We wanted to see if muscle memory and haptic feedback can be leveraged to express conscious but tacit sensory preferences.

We created a fictional scenario around a pepper grinder prop in a Wizard of Oz setting. We told our participants that they could use the prop to drive a food replicator (a Star Treky type of 3D printer) and specify the amount of pepper they wanted. People then mimed the action of grinding pepper by using the prop. The prop did not release any pepper, but through a rotary encoder transmitted the number of rotations to an iPad screen behind the “replicator”. There, I applied the same number of rotations using a real pepper grinder on a rice dish. I (aka the “replicator”) served the rice dish to the participant to evaluate its “pepperiness”.

Many thanks to Chang Hee Lee and Panos Tigkas for their help.