The development of an immersive mixed-reality application to improve the ecological validity of eating and sensory behavior research


Software Engineering and Game Development

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Introduction: The modern eating environment has been implicated as a driving force of the obesity epidemic. Mixed reality applications may improve traditional methodological assessments of eating behavior by improving the ecological validity of the laboratory setting. Methods: Research experts evaluated the utility and ecological validity of a mixed reality application that allowed immersion within virtual environments through utilizing the passthrough cameras of the head mounted display to view and interact with real foods. An initial evaluation was conducted that involved three virtual environments: a traditional laboratory booth, a non-textured restaurant, and a full-textured restaurant. The feedback from the initial evaluation was used to create a new virtual restaurant environment and a subsequent evaluation was conducted. Results: Nearly all research experts suggested adding social cues such as people and background noise to create a more authentic and ecologically valid experience. The experts scored the new virtual restaurant environment to be more acceptable than eating or conducting research in a sensory booth but scored lower when compared to conducting research in a real-world restaurant setting. Discussion: The results of this evaluation suggest that mixed reality applications may be a new methodology to assess environmental influences of eating behavior and may be a promising direction for eating behavior and sensory science research.

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Frontiers in Nutrition

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