Home Computing Giving new meaning to the concept of ‘playing with your food’ – Monash Lens

Giving new meaning to the concept of ‘playing with your food’ – Monash Lens

by Amelia Ramiro

Exploring the Intersection of Food, Art, and Technology

In the world of Jialin Deng, food takes on a whole new meaning. Deng, a PhD student within Monash University’s Creative Technologies research group, is delving into the fascinating realm where food becomes more than just sustenance. Combining her background in food design, fine art, and interaction design, Deng is using food as a medium, a material, and even a plaything to explore the realms of psychology and technology.

One of Deng’s ongoing projects, called Edible Symphony, showcases her innovative approach to food. In this project, Deng transforms crackers into audio speakers using gold leaf and a magnetic field connected to an amplifier. Surprisingly, these crackers can actually play music from Spotify. But the question Deng seeks to answer is not just about the technical achievement – it is about the meaning behind it. How does consuming sound through food resonate with people? What is the purpose of this unique interaction? These are the thought-provoking questions that drive her research.

Deng’s work is part of Monash University’s Creative Technologies group, which operates within the realm of Human-Centred Computing. This multidisciplinary group focuses on building interactive and augmented technologies that push boundaries and explore the intersection of technology and humanity. From human-drone interaction to brain-computer integration, the group’s diverse projects aim to redefine the relationship between humans and technology.

One of Deng’s completed projects, “Dancing Delicacies: Designing Computational Food for Dynamic Dining Trajectories,” offers a glimpse into her creative and thought-provoking approach to food. The project explores the concept of food that can move around a plate and merge with other foods on its own. Through an electrowetting system, droplets of food materials such as water, flavorings, and coffee can move independently, creating a dynamic and interactive dining experience.

For Deng and her fellow researchers, the use of food in these experiments is crucial. She describes food as a “meta-material” that allows them to realize computational processes. By using food as a medium for computation, they aim to create experiences where you can literally “taste” computation.

Professor Florian “Floyd” Mueller, an expert in interaction, game, and play design, sees this research as a glimpse into the future of food and computing. The integration of food and computing not only opens up new possibilities for the hospitality industry but also transforms how we understand both food and computing. It raises intriguing questions about the potential of eating a computer and what computation might taste like.

Deng’s research also has implications beyond the culinary world. It has the potential to revolutionize computer science education by using food as a vehicle to teach computational concepts. By combining the interactive nature of food with computing, students can engage with computing in a tangible and sensory way.

Deng and her team are currently engaging with Melbourne’s renowned food community to explore the possibilities of Dancing Delicacies. By positioning it as culinary art intersecting with technology, they hope to collaborate with chefs and food creators to create unique dining experiences. Through the use of programmable plates and careful manipulation of droplets, they seek to enhance sensory and taste experiences. Ultimately, they aim to bring chefs, food creators, and diners closer together to create a more immersive and engaging dining experience.

Jialin Deng’s work at the intersection of food, art, and technology challenges our understanding of what food can be. By using food as a medium for creativity, interaction, and computation, Deng opens up a world of possibilities. Her research not only pushes the boundaries of what is possible but also invites us to reimagine the relationship between humans, technology, and the food we consume.

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