22 September 2008

In the Netherlands, ‘Big Brother’ cafe watches what you eat

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The Restaurant of the Future at the University of Wageningen investigates the influences on eating behaviour and carries out studies for the food industry. Ceiling cameras record not only what food you selected, but what you almost selected and how long you paused before deciding. Facial recognition software analyses your level of enjoyment.

The $4.5 million Restaurant of the Future is run by scientists of Wageningen University and Research Center, working with Sodexo, an international catering firm, and the Noldus software company, to answer questions from the food industry and behaviorists. […]

Research on consumer behavior has been around since marketing began. Cornell University professor Brian Wansink has published popular works in the United States on how to fight obesity through food psychology, and runs a lab designed to look like a kitchen on the Cornell campus. McDonald’s has done confidential studies on its own customers.

But with its spy machines, databases and battery of analysts, the Wageningen project, with 42 companies participating, is meant to take the study of eating to a level approaching rocket science.

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