The high-tech future of eating, drinking, and dieting

The high-tech future of eating, drinking, and dieting: a culinary revolution

From AI-powered nutrition apps to theatrical dining experiences, digital technology is transforming our relationship with food in profound ways.
  • The rise of personalised nutrition
  • Is 3D-printed food the next big thing?
  • Immerse yourself in a theatrical dining experience

In the annals of human history, few things have remained as constant as our relationship with food. From the primal act of hunting and gathering to the sophisticated culinary arts of modern times, food has always been a cornerstone of culture, survival, and pleasure. Yet, as we stand on the cusp of a new era, the very fabric of this relationship is undergoing a profound transformation. Imagine a world where your morning coffee is brewed to perfection by a machine that understands your mood, where meals are tailored to your DNA for optimal health, and where virtual reality dining experiences transport you to a Parisian café or a Tokyo sushi bar at the touch of a button. This is not the stuff of science fiction, but the emerging reality of a world where technological advancements have reshaped the landscape of food and dining experiences. From 3D-printed food to AI-powered nutrition apps, the future of eating, drinking, and dieting is being reimagined at a rapid pace. As we delve into this brave new world, we’ll explore the innovations that promise to redefine our culinary experiences, the challenges they present, and the profound impact they could have on our health, environment, and society. Join us on this gastronomic journey into the future, where technology and taste converge in ways previously unimagined.

“Personalised nutrition is not about telling you how healthy food is for you in general, but how this meal is aligned with your main goal or goals: whether you want to sleep better, keep your diabetes under control, or increase your immune system to fight an autoimmune disease”.

Alvaro Cuesta, the founder and CEO of Youniq Health

The rise of personalised nutrition

Looking for health and nutrition advice online can be a rather frustrating experience. The internet is quite simply flooded with one-size-fits-all recommendations that, more often than not, ultimately fail to meet our expectations. After all, we are all unique individuals with distinct needs, so why should our diets be any different? This is precisely where personalised nutrition comes in. Driven by major advances in artificial intelligence and the growing awareness about the importance of a healthy diet, the field of personalised nutrition has garnered a lot of attention in recent years. It takes into account each individual’s unique genetic makeup, health history, the complex ecosystem of their microbiome, and even their body’s specific metabolic responses to different foods to devise a highly personalised diet that is specifically tailored to their unique needs. It’s like having a personal chef who knows your body inside and out, enabling them to craft your diet with surgical precision.

For example, Youniq is a new app that leverages the power of AI to provide each user with highly personalised nutrition advice that can help them achieve their goals. Using sophisticated AI algorithms, the app analyses vast amounts of personal information, including blood samples, genome tests, microbiome tests, blood pressure, and height, to suggest recipes that match your individual dietary needs. To make it easier for users to follow the app’s advice, the company partnered with numerous grocery stores, allowing you to shop for the missing ingredients from within the app. In case you don’t have time to wait for the ingredients to arrive, the app can also provide recipe recommendations based on the ingredients you already have in your fridge. If the ingredients don’t match any known recipe, the app will generate a completely unique recipe to give you a taste of something new. In that case, it will even generate a picture to demonstrate what the meal will look like. But most importantly, each recipe is created specifically in accordance with what you’re trying to achieve. “Our approach is that personalised nutrition is not about telling you how healthy food is for you in general, but how this meal is aligned with your main goal or goals: whether you want to sleep better, keep your diabetes under control, or increase your immune system to fight an autoimmune disease”, explains Alvaro Cuesta, the founder and CEO of Youniq Health.

“3D food printing has the potential to be the next frontier in cooking”.

Columbia University researchers

Is 3D-printed food the next big thing?

3D printing technology has found a number of useful applications in a wide range of industries over the years. What began as a novel technique for crafting intricate designs in consumer goods has evolved significantly, enabling the creation of increasingly complex structures, such as life-saving human organs or even full-sized rockets. However, the one thing it has failed to deliver so far is appetising food. While the idea of 3D-printed food is not exactly new, previous attempts only involved uncooked ingredients, which not only resulted in limited options but also in food that wasn’t very tasty. That may be about to change, though. A team of researchers from Columbia University announced that they were able to produce a seven-layer vegan cheesecake using a combination of 3D printing and laser technology. The recipe consists of seven ingredients: each layer features a graham cracker foundation, while peanut butter and Nutella are used for the supporting layers. In between, the researchers used softer ingredients like banana puree, strawberry jam, and cherry drizzle, with frosting on top. The addition of laser technology has really taken this concept to the next level, allowing researchers to actually cook the food as it’s being printed. This could help address some of the main limitations associated with 3D-printed food and significantly improve food safety.

According to Jonathan Blutinger, a mechanical engineer and postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, the new method enables you to control the exact amount of each ingredient that goes into your food. This means you would also be able to regulate your food’s caloric value and its carbohydrate, fat, or sugar content. Having this level of control over the food’s composition would be particularly useful for people with special dietary needs, such as those suffering from diabetes or battling with eating disorders. Despite this, many people are still averse to the idea of eating 3D-printed food. “There’s perhaps a stigma associated with this word (3D printing)”, says Blutinger. “Usually with printing, you think of an industrial process. But it’s important to realise that this is no different than cooking normally, except instead of chopping the ingredients up and everything like that, the machine is basically just assembling it in paste form”.

The high cost of the technology is another reason why 3D printers haven’t yet become a common feature in kitchens around the world. For example, the device researchers used to print the cheesecake costs around $1,000, while lasers are another $500 a piece. The lack of cookbooks devoted specifically to 3D-printed food is another obstacle preventing wider adoption of the technology. Nevertheless, this groundbreaking innovation marks an important milestone in the evolution of the technology, bringing it one step closer to commercial viability. “3D food printing has the potential to be the next frontier in cooking”, conclude the researchers. “An industry built around this technology may be on the horizon, creating a new vision of better nutrition, better food accessibility and palatability for many, increasing food safety and adding art and cutting-edge science to the most basic human need — nourishment”.

Immerse yourself in a theatrical dining experience

The old saying ‘you eat with your eyes first’ has long served as a testament to the visual allure of culinary creations. It speaks to our tendency to be drawn to food that not only tastes good but also looks appealing. And nowhere is this more true than in Journey, a new restaurant, bar, and lounge that recently opened in New York City, where fine dining and immersive video installations are combined to provide guests with a theatrical dining experience where every bite is a scene, every course an act, and the table itself becomes a stage. This unique space is divided into three separate areas, each of which features its own theatrical element. First up is the bar, where each drink you order is accompanied by a comedic skit projected directly onto the bar top using augmented reality technology. The Epic Café is the next area, where you can enjoy a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner. While you wait for your food to arrive, you can use your phone to unlock 3D designs concealed within the dishware. Finally, the Salon area features a curated collection of replica antiquities, a wall of moving classical art, and 3D sculptures of some of the world’s most famous landmarks and buildings, while the story behind them is brought to life by a hostess wearing high-tech couture outfits.

Journey also offers two immersive experiences for its guests. Journey Odyssey is a multisensory dining experience for up to 54 people, who are seated at tables for two and four. It consists of five courses, each of which is introduced through a series of comic vignettes filmed by some of Broadway’s biggest stars. The second immersive experience is Journey 360, in which 20 people are seated around a long communal table, while floor-to-ceiling projections transport them to various locations around the world, including the Empire State Building, the Amazonian rainforest, the Arctic, and outer space. Each of these locations is paired with a corresponding dish. For example, while ‘in’ the rainforest, guests are presented with a dish made from Amazonian greens, while the Arctic is accompanied by gin-cured arctic salmon. “I call it going to Broadway, but at the same time being able to eat, which usually you have to pick either before or after the show”, explains Alex Vanderbilt, the owner of Journey. As expected, such an experience doesn’t come cheap, with prices starting at $175 per person.

In closing

In this new age of gastronomic exploration, technology is redefining our relationship with food in profound and exciting ways. Personalised nutrition powered by artificial intelligence is emerging as a revolutionary approach to health and wellness, tailoring diets to an individual’s unique genetic makeup and health history. At the same time, 3D printing technology is evolving to potentially reshape our kitchens and our meals, offering precise control over ingredients and nutritional content, despite current challenges of the cost and public perception of 3D printed food. Eating out is becoming a multisensory experience, merging fine dining with immersive, theatrical visuals. The innovations discussed in this article are not mere novelties — they represent a significant shift towards a future where technology enhances not only the nutritional value of our meals but the overall dining experience as well.

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