One of the most important applications of full-immersion virtual reality will be virtual eating. Like sex, eating is a pleasurable activity that can be disentangled from its risks and downsides in a virtual environment.
If people could virtually eat any and everything they want, any time, and the physical experience was identical to the real experience of eating — including feelings of fullness and satiety — it would make it much easier for people to eat healthily and moderately when really eating.
But the experience will have to be convincing. The technology to allow for such an experience is still some ways off. Currently the cutting edge of virtual reality has to do with creating an immersive visual and aural experience. That’s great, but it is no substitute for eating…
Existing VR interfaces stimulating the sense of touch are still fairly crude. And if there is any progress being made on VR taste and smell experiences, I haven’t heard about it. Eating will have to provide a highly refined synthesis of all three senses — plus vision and hearing for good measure. Such an interface is more likely to feed directly into the brain than into our various sensory organs.
The possibility of unlimited eating may prove to be one of the prime motivators for developing such technology, which may (paradoxically) lead to a big reduction in overeating. In fact, full-immersion virtual eating may lead to the end of overeating altogether.