Hungry eyes: how augmented reality could change delivery, eating out and retail

American company Kabaq is experimenting with putting food on the table before it’s even been bought.

17 October 2018
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image credit: Getty Images

Forget pictures on menus, American company Kabaq wants to give consumers a 3D taste of food before they order. While its augmented reality (AR) platform has potential in supermarkets and has been used by big name brands in food service, its immediate impact in the UK might be felt a lot closer to home first.

Inside the home, to be precise. According to the founder of Kabaq, Alper Guler, his tech could have the biggest impact on the way people order in. In fact, he is heading over to the UK this month to meet with brands to discuss food delivery.

“When ordering online, we are using all these apps and you are just looking at pictures, but we can enhance the experience by bringing food to life,” he tells Food Spark.“What we want to do in the future is people could say, ‘Show me all the burgers from restaurants in one mile,’ and basically you would have all burgers on the table in front of you. You would not be swiping through photos, but there would real-size burgers sitting on the table and you could select which one you want.

“Humans are visual creatures, so if you compare dishes side by side and can make a better decision then that’s helpful.”

In what might be a threat to the likes Deliveroo and UberEats, Guler predicts that social media will play a part in the future of delivery too. Kabaq has already worked with Domino’s to allow people to order pizzas off Snapchat.

A feast for the eyes

So how does the tech actually work? Kabaq’s AR application allows products to be presented in 3D form, providing visualisation of dishes using advanced scanning technology from photographs, with people accessing the app via a phone or tablet.

Over in the US, the start-up has attracted attention from Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway. It’s also brought cupcake brand Magnolia Bakery’s catering capability to life and is working with chain Bareburger to add excitement to the dine-in menu via tablets.

“Food and technology is connected to the dining experience more than ever and it is growing every day,” Guler comments. “On the immersive end of technology, we are bringing virtual food on your table to help you decide what to eat next. As humans we are visual creatures and this is the closest form to actually seeing food on your table.”

It’s also about creating something experiential for the user, explains Guler –an approach that has met with success. “Some restaurants just used the platform on their dessert menus and there was a 15% increase in sales through upsales and visual prompts,” he says.

Social reality

But while Kabaq’s projects have been focused on the eating out space so far, it is also looking to target supermarkets. Guler says people could use their phones to see a product brought to life through its sustainability story or to bring up recipes.

“So you can put phone to the packaging of a food item and you can see the end result of the product whether it’s baking a cake or bringing five ingredients to together to show what you can make or using the space to tell stories about the product,” he says.

Kabaq even worked with The Economist and Snapchat to examine the future of food – like insects, plant-based meats, spirulina, meal replacement shakes and 3D printed food – where readers could use a Snapchat filter to place the food in their environment. The project also allowed people to tap on a plate to see an infographic explaining the implications of each food choice, accompanied by brief audio commentary.

“People could bring that food onto the table, and The Economist used the surroundings to talk about how a cricket impacts the Earth compared to the same amount of protein from beef, how many people eat bugs and nutritional facts,” Guler explains.

So how far could the visuals be taken? Guler predicts the next generation of mobile phones will actually be augmented glasses, which Microsoft, Apple and Snapchat are all currently working on, and this will have a major impact on the way we order, buy and eat food.

“Wearing these glasses, we will experience the augmented world while walking down the street. We will be looking at a restaurant and it will show all food items already on the table and you can make your order outside,” he says.

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