“Shockingly realistic” virtual cooking technology to revolutionise food

A technology that allows users to accurately simulate preparing food from scratch in remarkable detail is set to change a multitude of industries and activities around food.

Developed by Starship, the digital entertainment studio founded by games industry veteran Martin Kenwright that is also developing wearables for dementia sufferers, the technology allows users to interact with and cook virtual ingredients just as if they were using the real thing.

“We’re making cooking real – virtually real,” said Starship CEO Martin Kenwright. “It’s got all the interactions you can see with real cooking… using gesture control, there are people throwing things up in the air.”

With the technology, known as CyberCook, virtual ingredients behave in the same way as their real counterparts, with the same cooking behaviours as in real life, meaning users can accurately experiment with techniques and recipes without food waste.

“It’s so real, it’s accurate: look, feel – stuff burns, stuff cooks,” Kenwright explained, describing how users were “able to interact with hundreds of ingredients and [create] infinite arrays, just like real food without the mess.”

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With such a prestigious gaming background, creating next-gen graphics has been an important part of Starship’s development of CyberCook.

“People thought it was out of a magazine. No, some coder’s just stirred that up and poured it in a plate from raw vegetables,” said Kenwright.

“We’re using some of the best rendering techniques in the world – stuff used in Lord of the Rings – like sub-surface scattering and texture and all physical-based lighting.”

However, Kenwright is holding back on some CyberCook details at present, and said that the “full reveal” would happen within a month or two.

“The real secret of this is we want to keep under wraps what the platform is, but it’s the biggest jump in the sector since CD-ROM,” explained Kenwright. “You’re not looking at something, you’re not watching the video, you’ll actually be doing something that’s never ever been done before.”

“When you see the magic secret you’ll get it straight away,” he said. “There’s not one single kind of proposition like this in the world, in that let’s just create the first cooking platform that can allow people to make things and share them.”

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Kenwright believes that the technology will have a major impact not only within the consumer space, but across a range of industries as well.

“It will change the way education is done, it will change the way the format is done of teaching people – and that’s the real clever bit, it’s not the 3D simulation, which everyone thinks is amazing, it’s actually the structure of what we allow people to do with it,” he said.

He also believes the technology will have uses within the health and retail sectors.

“At the end of the day, food underpins all of the health sector – you are what you eat – and the same with retail: it’s all about food,” he said. “So the idea is creating this five-year vision; Starship being one of the biggest players in these sectors.”


Images courtesy of Starship Group.


Vibration-powered headphones: Better listening, no bones about it

Recent developments in speaker technology are now being applied to headphones for portable use. The result, bone conducting headphones, is the newest design from a start-up called Damson.

These headphones promise a higher quality listening experience by directly engaging the temporal bone instead of the inner ear.

Cleverly dubbed Headbones, the wireless headphones rest in front of the ears. They send vibrations through the temporal bone into the inner ear, resonating through the skull.  Their unique placement outside the ear reduces stress on the sensitive inner parts.

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Headbones allow listeners to be attentive to outside noises as well as to their music by keeping the ear open. According to Damson’s Kickstarter campaign for the new product, this design feature makes Headbones safer for use when exercising, as it helps wearers maintain an awareness of their surroundings.

They are also optimal for office use because wearers are able to hear the phone ring and seamlessly carry out conversations while listening. Alternatively, Headbones have detachable noise-cancelling earphones inserted through a port, useful for creating a peaceful commute or a more focused listening experience.

Headbones’ design pledges comfort in a way that clunky over-the-ear headphones cannot provide. They wrap around the back of the head with an adjustable strap and feature a mouldable ear piece to prevent headaches and soreness.

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Damson has patented the technology behind Headbones as incisor diffusion technology (IDT), which shuns the typical cone speaker form. In cone speakers, a magnetic coil vibrates against a cone to create and amplify sound.

Instead of using the coil and cone, IDT substitutes “teeth” that vibrate against any surface it is set upon. This surface can be anything from cushions to glass windows in larger speakers, but for Headbones, the teeth vibrate against the temporal bone.

However, the implementation of IDT into headphones is more than just an interesting new method of transmitting audio on the go. Since Headbones send vibrations directly through the temporal bone without relying on the outer ear and ear drum, they let people with certain hearing impairments listen in a way that cone speakers cannot.

In this way, Damson is widening the audience of listeners as well as creating a more comfortable and varied listening experience for Headbones wearers.

With the launch of a Kickstarter campaign in June, Damson hopes to gain enough funding to mass produce Headbones by September 2014 and make them available to the public, sending music through the bones of listeners across the world.


Image courtesy of Damson.