Lunch Monitor

26 Nov 2007

Bite into an apple and they know haw fast you chew. Finish all but a few spoonfuls of tomato soup and the waste is calculated. Smile before sipping on a soda and a camera records your expression. While the idea of being monitored whilst eating lunch might seem daunting to some, 250 students and professors have already signed onto such a project at the Restaurant of the Future – a canteen at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

This restaurant doubles as a field laboratory – a £3 million initiative designed to analyze why we eat and drink the way we do. Mr. Koster, of the university’s agro-technology and food sciences group, reported that the findings would be used to assist policy makers, health experts and food executives who wanted to understand and influence eating habits.

A control room allows researchers to maneuver two-dozen cameras that catalog minute details – such as how long a client lingers at the buffet – and “face readers” to analyze dinner’s facial expressions. A team of twenty scientists are involved in the project, which will continue to develop over the next ten years.

The study will also focus on consumption and waste, as one third of all food in the Netherlands is thrown in the bin. Further, the restaurant includes a storage tank that will hold kitchen waste before delivering it to a farm where it will be mixed with animal dung and used to produce biogas. “We’ll call this an experiment in green catering, if you will,” Koster said. The university hopes that if there system works, the solution could be used in large institutions like schools, hospitals or prisons.

Source: NY Times

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