Games industry veteran brings cooking training to virtual reality

Learning to cook like a pro can be an expensive process, fraught with disastrous results when recipes fail to go as planned. However, a new virtual reality experience is set to change that.

Dubbed CyberCook, it is described as a “hyper-real cooking simulation” by creators Starship, who are run by games industry veteran Martin Kenwright , the man responsible for gaming studios Evolution and Digital Image Design, and games such as DriveClub and MotorStorm.

Kenwright spoke to Factor in June last year about CyberCook, but was unable to reveal many of the key details of how it would work. Now, however, with the release of a demo version for the Samsung Gear VR, the company is ready to share all.

CyberCook trains you to make an array of dishes in virtual reality in enough detail that you can transfer your new culinary skills to real life. Both ingredients and time behave as they would in reality, so it’s just as easy to burn your VR shrimp as real ones.

The system also teaches you different techniques and how to best use different utensils. Perhaps best of all, CyberCook uses a scoring system to assess your cookery performance, allowing you to iterate and improve without wasting ingredients.

“As well as offering an engrossing experience, CyberCook dispels the fear of experimenting in the kitchen,” said Starship CEO Martin Kenwright.

“You’re involved with every stage of the cookery process. Why learn from a video when you can practice hands-on and without a single bit of waste?”

This fear of experimentation is a familiar issue for food fans with little cooking experience. People love to buy recipe books and watch cookery shows, but what they actually cook is often unadventurous and unremarkable.

While fear plays a part in this, cost is also a concern, with the price of food making experimenting with many ingredients too risky a prospect.

CyberCook is designed to change this, providing recipes from all over the world using ingredients spanning from the everyday to the highly exotic, and using a points system to encourage you to keep learning.

Eventually the system will even integrate a real shop, allowing you to order the ingredients and utensils to replicate the virtual recipes in a real kitchen.

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The demo version, CyberCook Taster, may have just been released exclusively on the Samsing Gear VR – the VR headset created by Samsung and Oculus – but Starship plans to make the final version available more widely as VR headsets become more widespread.

In the meantime, a version for mobile devices will soon be available, known as CyberCook Slice.

Over time, Starship also plans to increase the level of realism in CyberCook, which will be interesting to see given its already pretty impressive graphics.

“We’re proud to work with partners like Oculus and Samsung so early on in the VR lifecycle on a Gear VR exclusive,” said Kenwright.

“In a couple of years, we’ll reach new levels of realism.”


Images courtesy of Starship Group.


 

Virtual reality for good: VR to boost healthcare and change lives

Virtual reality is still considered niche by many; a technology only of interest to gamers and nerds.

However, while it is true that it has huge potential to revolutionise gaming and movies, the potential for virtual reality outside of these applications is huge.

The emerging technology may be used for a variety of health applications and to help improve the lives of those who need support.

With all the possibilities for virtual reality, it’s really no wonder that LG and Google recently launched a new headset, or that Facebook purchased Oculus Rift for $2bn last year.

Factor has put together some of the ways that virtual reality, or VR, is being developed to help improve lives.

Teaching brain surgery

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Brain surgery is incredibly complex at the best of times, but a virtual reality simulator can allow surgeons to practice their techniques without the consequences of making a mistake.

A simulator created in Canada provides a 3D environment, in which there is brain tissue, blood vessels and tumours, where surgeons can hone their technique.

The system was set up in seven teaching hospitals in Canada and could be used elsewhere if it is fond to be successful.

Helping bullying victims

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Children who get bullied at school may be helped to escape victimisation and bullying at school by VR, one set of researchers said.

The academics, from the University of Warwick, UK, put children in a virtual 3D environment and made them play the roles of bullies and their victims. The situations would then propose ways to resolve the situation.

“Our findings suggest for the intervention to be effective, they need to be of appropriate duration and include booster episodes over time,” Dieter Wolke from the University said.

“Virtual interventions could be most effective as part of a wider anti-bullying curriculum.”

Teaching nursing

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An Oculus Rift headset has been being used to train student nurses to have better communication skills.

The headset has been used to provide nurses with more training time, and will be used to help those conduct virtual visits to patients and their families to practice the best ways to give them information.

“The dream is to create a completely virtual hospital where doctors and nurses can work on everything from surgeries to better communication, and so that patients and their families can get the information they need,” said Ekaterina Prasolova-Førland from NTNU.

Veteran support

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be very common in veterans and those that have experienced major traumas in their lives.

However VR has been used to help sufferers of PTSD face their trauma-related fears, rather than avoiding them.

The test subjects were exposed to simulated stress-inducing events in a virtual-reality environment and provided training to develop coping skills.

Scientists found that improvement of PTSD happened on three different scales: neuropsychological, self-report and those that were clinician-administered.

Stroke recovery

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There has been a number of research programmes that have looked at whether recovery from a stroke can be aided by using virtual reality applications.

Academics who have looked at cases where VR had been used found that more than 200 people, of around 550 who had trialled the tech, said the virtual reality could improve their arm function.

“Virtual reality looks as if it could be a promising therapeutic tool, but we need a lot more data before we can assess which aspects of VR are the most important, and assess how long the effects last,” said Kate Laver, from Flinders University, Australia.

Weight loss

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Using Second Life, the web-based virtual environment, scientists from the University of Kansas Medical Center helped people with weight loss.

The scientists found that weight maintenance, which included information about nutrition and diet, could be well managed using the virtual environment.

“Individuals who want to participate in real-life scenarios without real-life repercussions can use virtual reality,” Debra Sullivan from the University said.

“For example, participants can practice meal planning, grocery shopping, and dietary control when eating at restaurants and holiday parties to a much greater extent with Second Life compared with the time-limited clinic meeting.”


Featured image and nursing image courtesy of NTNU