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Lard-busting specs trick snack-happy Japanese

Boffins use augmented reality to fool fatties

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Japanese boffins are using augmented reality and other hi-tech trickery in a series of experiments designed to induce people to find ways to eat less.

University of Tokyo researchers have built one particular device which features a pair of cyber goggles – whereby a video image taken by a small camera mounted on the front of the specs is tinkered with to make the object held by the user appear bigger.

In this way the user is tricked into thinking the thing they’re about to eat is much bigger than it is, according to AFP.

Those volunteering for the tests apparently ate around 10 per cent less when the snacks they were holding appeared 50 per cent bigger, but snarfed 15 per cent more when the cookies were manipulated to look two-thirds smaller.

Professor Michitaka Hirose at the university's graduate school of information science and technology is in charge of the experiments, which effectively try to trick the human brain.

"How to fool various senses or how to build on them using computers is very important in the study of virtual reality," he told AFP. “Reality is in your mind.”

Far out.

In another experiment, Hirose and his band of boffins manipulate the computer imagery even more radically to change the appearance of the snack being held by the volunteer.

When combined with artificially-created scent, this technique meant the researchers were able to trick 80 per cent of users into thinking they had eaten a chocolate or strawberry-flavoured cookie when it fact it was just a plain old biscuit, said AFP.

The boffins apparently have no current plans to commercialise their invention, which is not surprising given that Japan has one of the lowest rates of adult obesity in the world.

However, they could be on to a winner if they make those goggles a bit less unwieldy and think about marketing the fat-busting specs to western countries. ®

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