Achieving positive experiences in human-food interaction design


Human-food interaction

  • “Experience is a stream of feelings, thoughts and action; a continuous commentary on our current state of affairs.” [Hassenzahl]
  • “Experience” isn’t something that is experienced only during special moments like seeing a special exhibit at the museum, attending a party, going to an amusement park for a day, etc. [Nardi]
  • It is something that is a part of one’s normal life.
  • Something else is that is a part of our daily experiences is technology.
  • As McCarthy and Wright say, “We don’t just use or admire technology; we live with it… technology is deeply embedded in our ordinary everyday experience.” [McCarthy]

o   We use computers and cellphones everyday. Even if one scorns those technologies, we are surrounded by many ubiquitous technologies such as lights, cars, even the zipper on your clothes. Most likely, there is some sort of technology in your life that you are interacting with.

  •  “…our interactions with technology can involve emotions, values, ideals, intentions, and strong feelings.” [McCarthy]

o   This results in some sort of experience.

  • Something else that is important in our everyday lives is food.
  • Food isn’t just for nutrition to keep us alive. It also a huge social factor.
  • As Comber said, “Food is, and always will be, something that connects people together and which has the potential to inspire and engage us in new and exciting experiences.” [Rob Comber]
  • “Food-related behaviors respond to a complex of situational factors and choices that people make in these steps are neither always consistent (microwave dinner on one day, elaborate meal at the weekend), nor easy to understand.” [Comber et al]
  •  “Various physical, social, cognitive and physiological factors have to be considered when designing for what we grow, eat and throw away. These factors are influenced by our own values, social norms, culture and socio- demographic backgrounds.” [Comber et al]
  • “Given the importance of food in our daily lives [along with technology], it seems equally important to understand what role technology currently plays with regard to food and indeed what roles it can be imagined to play in the future.” [Grimes et al]
  • This is the space of human-food interaction. This is a design challenge for interaction designers and the HCI community.
  • In this space, food and technology is brought together to create an experience.
  • Currently there is a focus on corrective technologies [Grimes et al], which are designed to correct some sort of problem.
  • There should also be a focus on the more neglected path of celebratory technologies [Grimes et al], which focuses on creating positive experiences with their interactions with food and technology.
  • This paper will quickly introduce the space of corrective technologies and celebratory technologies.
  • It will follow by the exploration of two projects with the goal of achieving the creation of a celebratory technology: Food Media/CoDine and The Telematic Dinner Party. It is a look at their designs and their process to see whether or not a successful celebratory technology was created.
  • Finally, the paper will give a prescription of one way to achieve positive experience within the human-food interaction space.


  • Many HCI researchers in the field are focused on fixing problems.
  • They “sought to examine how technology might alter human-food interaction… uncertainty would be turned into certainty, inexperience into aptitude.” [Grimes et al]
  • This is what Grimes et al calls, “corrective technologies insofar as they attempt to fix undesirable behaviors.” [Grimes et al]
  • “That work which has been done has focused primarily on the problems that people have planning meals and preparing and consuming food.” [Grimes et al]

o   Examples:

o   “Kalas supports decision making by allowing users to leverage information such as others’ recipe choices, comments and ratings as they decide which recipe to choose.” [Grimes et al]

o   “Cook’s Collage captures a visual record of cooking activity and thus if the cook is interrupted he or she can view this record and be reminded of what step in the cooking process they have reached.” [Grimes et al]

o   “…U-kitchen system, smart devices communicate with each other and share the context via a kitchen server, including RFID tags in appliances so the system can identify appliances being used, and ubiquitous services which help the user with the grocery management, cooking and give healthy dining advice.” (CoDine)

o   “The Ambient Kitchen integrates data projectors, cameras, RFID tags and readers, object mounted accelerometers, and under-floor pressure sensing, to construct a supportive environment for food planning, preparation and cooking.” (CoDine)

o   “Playful Tray is embedded with an interactive game play over a weight-sensitive tray surface, to recognize and track the natural eating actions of children in real time, thus the children’s eating actions are used as game inputs for reducing their poor eating behaviours.” (Food Media)

  • Has element of playfulness but it is still there to correct behavior
  • But food isn’t just about the corrective experience.
  • “Socially, food is something that brings people together – individuals interact through and around it.” – Andrea Grimes
  • …points to the possibility and necessity to see technology and design interventions in this space as more than simply corrective.”  – Rob Comber
  • “…HCI community can begin to imagine another, much neglected path of research: one in which individuals’ current experiences with food are seen not as undesirable, but as positive, productive, even delightful. “ [Grimes et al]
  • “We certainly agree that individuals do encounter problems in their interactions with food, but…they enjoy their food, relish the practice of making it, and above all celebrate the sharing of it.” – Andrea Grimes et al
  • Human-food interaction should design for this positive experience.
  • Grimes et al calls this, “celebratory technology; technology that celebrates the positive and successful aspects of human behavior.” – Andrea Grimes et al
  • “By drawing from social science research on how people live with, consume, and conceive of food, we come to suggest six positive aspects of human-food interaction that can be designed for… creativity, pleasure and nostalgia, gifting, family connectedness, trend-seeking behaviors, and relaxation.”  – Andrea Grimes et al
  • I’ll explain each section
  • This is a framework that can be used to look at design, help design for positive experience
  • Many designers in this space are beginning to emphasize this positive experience in their design.
    • Examples:
    • “NetPot takes on the challenge of creating a communal cooking experience for remotely located participants. This project recognizes that the sensory experience is impoverished in mediated group experiences. The traditional communal nature of cooking around a Chinese hotpot is incorporated with gaming.” (Barden)
    • “The Netpot brought the focus of the participants on the pot for cooking.” (Barden)
    • LiveForm: Telekinetic projects (Barden)
    • “They performed a telematic dinner party between Amsterdam, Netherlands and Toronto, Canada.” (Barden)
    • “The dinner was comprised of interactive devices: networked wine glasses, saltshakers, and tabletop video projections.” (Barden)
    • “While this performance was situated around food, it was more of a celebration of the technological feats than an attempt at supporting the guests in sharing a dining experience.” (Barden)
    • “‘Mamagoto’ is an interactive and context-aware dining system which encourages small children to “play” with food, using their curiosity towards food to expand their sensory experience while eating.” (Food Media)

Projects that want to design for experience (Critiques if they succeeded or not, why)

  • Now I will present two projects with goals of designing “celebratory technology”.

o   Food Media/CoDine

o   Telematic Dinner

  • Both want to achieve playfulness, connectedness, and an experience with their amazing show of technology but with varying degrees of success.

o   Project’s goal, how match 6 positive aspects of HFI

o   Project’s process

o   Did they achieve goal?

o   If not why? [mostly because of process, they didn’t allow for the design of experience before the technology was made]

Food Media/CoDine is concepted as a celebratory tech but fails at it through the process of its creation (celebratory framework eval throughout, look at process to see why did or did not achieve)

  • What is this
  • Goal: how much of 6 positive aspects they want to achieve
  • Process
  • “Food Media” is “an intuitive multimodal interaction platform to engage remote people into social communication and entertainment within the telepresent family dinner context.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “…CoDine system, a dining table embedded with interactive subsystems that augment and transport the experience of communal family dining to create a sense of coexistence among remote family members.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “CoDine connects people in different locations through shared dining activities: gesture-based screen interaction, mutual food serving, ambient pictures on an animated tablecloth, and the transportation of edible messages.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “Rather than focusing on functionality or efficiency, CoDine aims to provide people with an engaging interactive dining experience through enriched multi-sensory communication.” – Jun Wei et al
  • They are two different papers about the same design
  • They want to create an experience with their prototype but their process was not best way to design for experience
  • Reasons why: prototype, test prototype, assume target audience will feel the way they want them to feel, next step is user study to make sure they feel the way they feel (lots of quotes and annoyed critiques about this)
  • “Compared to interacting in a virtual environment, we believe these physical movements of plates or cups physically on dining table convey more delicate human emotions and stronger feeling of warmth, which contributes to the enhanced sense of co-presence when user take the served dish from their remote dining partner, even though they do not share the same physical dining table.” – Jun Wei et al [My comments: They did not test this on their audience to see if they really do think this, it is them speculating.]
  • [prototype first than see if your users will feel the way you want them to feel, they built elaborate hi-fi prototype, how much are you willing to change if people don’t feel the way you want to? Does not acknowledge others.] “While we have conducted prototype tests during the implementation to verify the CoDine modules function, our next step is a user study to assess whether CoDine enhances engagement between fellow co-diners.” – Jun Wei et al
  • [the design is not everyday habit, design not shown how people react to it in home] “Our research explores how interaction with familiar but intelligent everyday environment and artefacts can be used to enhance meaningful interactions in dining situation, going beyond ambient sensing and computing, to the level of subconscious connection between human beings.” – Jun Wei et al
  • [more features = people feel more connected, that is what this says to me] “In the future, more interaction channels can be included to increase the feelings of connectedness, awareness and playfulness, to enhance the shared social entertainment experience beyond verbal or video communication.” – Jun Wei et al
  • Why didn’t actually achieve “celebratory design”

Telematic Dinner Party is a celebratory tech but still lacked some experience they wanted to achieve (celebratory framework eval throughout, look at process to see why did or did not achieve)

  • What is this
  • Goal: how much of 6 positive aspects they want to achieve
  • Process
  • Both of these designs are critique through the lens of design experience
  • Both, the technology should be mediators to bring diners and family members closer to each other
  • “Here we consider, among the others, the creativity, togetherness, pleasure and playfulness, associated with food and mealtime.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • “The Telematic Dinner Party (TDP) aims to support remote guests in experiencing a sense of togetherness, and playfulness and sharing in a dinner party.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • Their process better than above
  • They tested with their audience
  • They held activities with audience to see if they get the goal experience
  • They were iterative: traditional dinner party, pilot study, hi-fi prototype
  • Still found issues with experience and how people felt with prototype that they have to address
  • They built it all but some experience they wanted to achieve didn’t work
  • “Our observations of the TDPs and guest feedback indicate that the social structure is central in creating a sense of social presence between participants, and that this cannot be achieved by the quality of the technology platform alone.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • Why closer on track than previous design, Why still off

To get the experience right, the process needs to focus on the experience and getting that right first before the technology.

  • “Human-food interaction requires much more attention to the people and the ways in which they engage with food than efficiencies and novelties new technologies may provide.”  – Rob Comber

There are many ways of achieving this but I would like to propose the usage of achieving positive experience through low-fidelity prototypes first before creating high-fidelity prototypes.

o   Sketches, low-fidelity paper prototypes are low cost

o   If it fails, it is easy to change something quickly and test again

o   Sometimes if the features look too complete or work too much like a final product, further ideation and changes to the design will be less likely to happen

o   It doesn’t have to be used only for testing usability, this can also test what kinds of experience your user will have

o   Since the focus should not be emphasized on the technology, it is the concept that makes the experience and that is what we should test

o   The low-fidelity prototype can be used to simulate, make sure people are having the positive

Example of a process that used low-fidelity prototype to achieve positive experience: Food Journey (Capstone): a way to design for experience first

  • Want to “support relationship-building activities and extend them to distant dining situations… support [couple] bonding, communication, and social togetherness.” (CoDine, 23) Minus the remote participants
    • See how people act together collocated first before remote
  • What: design for the experience
    • Focus on the positive experience instead of technology
  • Tech mediator

o   aim for overall positive experience

o   make sure it is there before higher fidelity

o   couples are unique and will interact and respond different

  • Why: technology is just the mediator [unremarkable computing (Grimes)]
  • Concept

o   people grow up with different preferences and tastes

o   relationship together

  • bring their backgrounds together
  • possible to explore their preferences together
  • try new things
  • fun experience together

o   Food Journey helps initiate this experience to bring two people closer together [celebratory technology]

  • 6 postive aspects
  • don’t know where journey take them
  • aim, prompt conversation, expand horizons, develop positive food practice
  • Five parts: exploration, Adventure: The Hunt, Adventure: Create, Adventure: Eat, Keeper
  • How: low fidelity prototype, paper prototype with post its

o   simulate the journey

o   so far with three young couples (various status, various pickiness and control)

  • young couple already use smart devices like smartphone on regular basis

o   Allow focus on how couple interact with each other and engage with activities, how felt throughout the experience

o   Less focus on technology breakdown

o   Next step would be higher fidelity prototype to look at UI