Exploring the effects of immersive virtual reality environments on sensory perception of beef steaks and chocolate
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Virtual reality (VR) technology is emerging as a tool for simulating different eating environments to better understand consumer sensory response to food. This research explored the impact of different environmental contexts on participants’ hedonic ratings of two different food products: beef steaks, and milk chocolate, using VR as the context-enhancing technology. Two separate studies were conducted. For beef, two different contextual conditions were compared: traditional sensory booths and a VR restaurant. For chocolate, data were generated under three different contextual conditions: traditional sensory booths, VR Irish countryside; VR busy city (Dublin, Ireland). All VR experiences were 360-degree video based. Consumer level of engagement in the different contextual settings was also investigated. The results showed that VR had a significant effect on participants’ hedonic responses to the food products. Beef was rated significantly higher in terms of liking for all sensory attributes when consumed in the VR restaurant. While for chocolate, the VR countryside context generated significantly higher hedonic scores for flavour and overall liking in comparison to the sensory booth. Taken together, both studies demonstrate how specific contextual settings can impact participants’ sensory response to food products, when compared to a traditional sensory laboratory condition.
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