Can Virtual Reality ‘Diet Goggles’ Help You Lose Weight?


The answer to your weight loss problems could be a pair of virtual reality goggles.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Cyber Interface Lab claim that virtual reality headsets can hack our senses. The goggles can reduce appetite, make low-fat foods taste delicious and even trick our brains into thinking we’re eating more than we actually are.

Image Courtesy: University of Tokyo Cyber Interface Lab
Image Courtesy: University of Tokyo Cyber Interface Lab

The VR system known as “Augmented Satiety” uses interactive computer graphics to virtually increase the size of a food item. Takuji Narumi, a professor at the University of Tokyo and inventor of the system, said wearing the headset can reduce the amount of food a person eats by 10 percent.

CNN correspondent Will Ripley tested the technology and was able to see a cookie through the VR headset while holding an actual, smaller cookie in his hand. The headset altered the size of the cookie and changed the angle of Ripley’s fingers holding the cookie to trick the brain.

Michitaka Hirose, also a professor at the University of Tokyo, leads the project and said the technology must work within reasonable boundaries. For example, if the cookie given to Ripley was enlarged too much, the VR trick would have failed because there would have been a difference between the actual bite and the VR’s projection. So far, researchers have successfully increased the size of the food by 50 percent.

“Now we’re only communicating with only vision and auditory sense, but perhaps we can communicate with haptic interaction,” said Hiroyuki Shinoda, a professor at the University of Tokyo who leads research in bringing haptic technology to virtual reality.

Haptic technology helps to facilitate communication by touch. It’s what allows us to touch our phone screens and can be found in the vibration of a steering wheel in arcade games.

Image Courtesy: University of Tokyo Cyber Interface Lab
Image Courtesy: University of Tokyo Cyber Interface Lab

Ripley was able to experience the technology first hand by shaking hands with Shinoda without actual contact. Shinoda placed his hand in one box designed to transfer haptic technology, while Ripley placed his hand in a corresponding box. Both shook hands in the boxes without touching each other, but received the physical feeling that they had just shaken hands.

By creating a 3D hologram and working with a series of ultrasounds, Shinoda is able to add a sense of touch over distance. This allows interactions with something that you would have previously been able to only see or hear. The haptic interactions don’t require any kind of headset to be worn by users.

“I think it’s a very important point. I think that the future of the computer interface will go towards the situation where we don’t have to wear anything,” Shinoda said.

There are still kinks to work out before haptic technology can be available to the public through virtual reality though, Shinoda said. The device in which Shinoda and Ripley used to shake hands is one of them.

“I have to say that we still have many technological problems. For example that device is a little bulky and complex now,” he said. “At least in principle, it’s not a very difficult thing to realize such an interface in our daily life.”