How to reveal the taste of honey using augmented reality
At the exhibition Expo 2020 Another busy day has passed in the bustling Middle Eastern metropolis of Dubai. While other visitors were enjoying the warm Arabian winter, one group couldn’t wait to get out from under the sun and enter the dark magical forest that grows on the other side of the world and start exploring it virtually.
These people were invited to the New Zealand Pavilion to demonstrate the capabilities of augmented reality, which promise to set a new standard in marketing and educating food consumers.
The show uses both the sight and hearing of visitors to help them understand the complexity of the tastes of manuka – pure local forest honey, which is known worldwide for its useful properties, quality and naturalness.
Representatives of the New Zealand company Comvita, the world leader in the production of manuka honey, came to Dubai to win new customers.
And the magic begins
The demonstration begins like this. Each visitor sits in front of a tray with two samples of honey, a tasting spoon and a glass of sparkling water to purify the taste. All participants put on HoloLens 2 headsets, the lights go out, and the magic begins.
Suddenly, a life-size beehive appears out of the darkness, hanging from a New Zealand punga tree. A virtual three-dimensional beekeeper arrives and guides the audience through lush primeval thickets.
A swarm of bees buzzes, flies around the room in search of endemic manuka bushes with tiny delicate white-pink flowers full of nectar.
It’s time for tasting. Visual images of the natural components of the taste profile of each honey variety float around the guests: apricots, iris, marshmallows and other ingredients corresponding to the flavors of the product.
To add a little more magic, HoloLens leaves a trail of sparks in the air behind the tasting spoon when it is immersed in a pot of honey, just like a magic wand.
Daniel Barclay, founder and creative director, says that the Comvita HoloLens show was created by a New Zealand design agency Blur the Lines as an emotional bridge that connects the participants’ consciousness with their taste buds.
Two years ago, Comvita and Blur the Lines built a multi-sensory honey tasting center called Wellness Lab in Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand.
“This space was designed to show the purity of the product: white textures to make honey shine, an undulating acoustic ceiling. We used three projectors, surround sound speakers, infrared heaters, sprinklers, air conditioning and lighting.” Barclay says.
This immersive experience has become a hit with tourists and locals alike. But when Comvita decided to go to Dubai, the team chose a virtual approach using HoloLens.
To make it work, the designers combined the technical capabilities of HoloLens with an eclectic mix of scientific research and advice from winemakers who know how to establish an emotional connection with consumers at the door of the wine cellar.
“We were inspired by the wine tasting, during which there is an opportunity to talk to the winemaker, taste his wine and see how it is made,” says Barclay. —We also consulted with a neuroscientist to understand the role of taste and find ways to convey all this to each visitor, showing the differences between manuka and other varieties of honey.”
David Bathgate, head of International marketing at Comvita, says the interactive experience helps consumers understand the connection between the complex taste of manuka and the nutrients it contains.
“This is the connection we are trying to establish. After all, not only taste is important, but also the effect on health. So it turns into something more again: understanding the complexity of manuka helps to understand the benefits of this honey,” says Bathgate.
Custody of the land
One of the main features of the show is the forest itself, since sustainable development is of paramount importance for Comvita. Bathgate describes the company’s core value with the word Kaitiakitanga, which in the Maori language means custody of the land.
“We want all our guests to understand that this is the basis of everything we do—” he says. – Comvita has planted about 10 million native trees. We are the largest private forest management company in New Zealand. Our mission is to restore and strengthen the delicate interdependence and balance between people and nature.”
Bathgate believes that the impact on sensations during the demonstration of Comvita HoloLens highlights the fundamental role that we all play in protecting the environment, and this can inspire people to join this mission.
Matt Bostwick, director of partner relations at Microsoft New Zealand, says that virtual multisensory capabilities can help change consumer attitudes and the way food and beverages are promoted around the world.
“They make consumers more interested and can change people’s perception of our relationship with the natural world,” he says.
Meanwhile, Comvita and Blur the Lines intend to push the boundaries of taste even further – both physically and virtually.
Now they are planning to reproduce the Auckland Wellness Laboratory in China, in Shanghai. And they are ready to transfer the experience of tasting with HoloLens to another world market of natural products — in the USA in mid-2022.