Virtual reality glasses fool dieters into thinking they are eating more, better

Virtual reality glasses have been developed to help dieters. No, the glasses don’t improve the self-esteem of dieters. Instead, the glasses help them lose weight by fooling them into being more satisfied with smaller or less appealing treats.

The glasses as currently designed would be somewhat cumbersome to wear. They might be so weighty, in fact, that they could help the dieter lose weight through the expenditure of energy, just using them.

The glasses were developed by researchers at the University of Tokyo. One sample device magnifies the image of the food item it displays to the wearer while at the same time keeping his hand the same size, making the snack appear larger than it actually is.

Experiments showed that the system worked; volunteers ate nearly 10 percent less when the food they were eating appeared 50 percent larger.

The glasses appeared to work in the reverse direction, as well. Volunteers at about 15 percent MORE when cookies were altered to appear to be only two-thirds of their actual size.

Professor Michitaka Hirose at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school of information science and technology said, “How to fool various senses or how to build on them using computers is very important in the study of virtual reality. Reality is in your mind.”

A different system worked similarly through the use of what Hirose’s team called a “meta cookie.” In that scenario, the visual trickery is enhanced with scent bottles to fool a wearer into believe the treat they are dining on is far better than just a plain biscuit. The headgear can be adjusted to fool users into thinking they are eating either a chocolate or strawberry-flavoured cookie.

It works 80 percent of the time, Hirose said. We’d wonder, however, how it would work on people who truly want to lose weight, if they know what the system is doing. After all, if you know the system is making the cookie look 50 percent larger, and are food-addicted, will your cognitive brain tell you, “Hey, eat more. You know this is really smaller.”

The research team no plans as yet to commercialize the system, but they might try to see if they can answer the above question. They would like to try the device on real dieters, investigating whether or not people actually wanting to lose weight can use the device to do so.



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