Engaging VR/AR Pioneers on the Future of Food

VRARA SF participated in the LAUNCH Food forum in Marin Ca this week, organized by VRARA Sydney member Davar Ardalan. It focused on the role of immersive storytelling to achieve the organization's goals. The following piece was written by Ardalan, originally appearing in Huffington Post.

Update 4/05: Commentary has been added from VRARA SF Chapter Co-President Emily Olman.

Engaging VR/AR Pioneers on the Future of Food

by Davar Ardalan

We’re reporting this week from the LAUNCH Food Forum in San Francisco. We’re here meeting our food innovators from around the world who are committed to helping create a healthier world through innovation. From Fiji to San Francisco, innovator Tash Tan of S1T2 has travelled around the world to do on the ground research for the LAUNCH Legends project on the possibilities of using immersive storytelling technologies with the goal of restoring pride in traditional eating in the Pacific. This has included an explorative trip that saw Tash travel with LAUNCH innovator Chef Robert Oliver and Legends Project Manager Allan Soutaris, across the north coast of the island of Viti Levu to areas most afflicted by a devastating cyclone, then down to the capital Suva before visiting a surrounding island, Beqa.

“Just as stories are shared through time,” Tash says, “the traditional recipes and culture of healthy and organic eating are passed down through each generation in the most magical of ways. My fear is that this culture is now under threat because the traditions of the people are being replaced with new-found values in foods that are highly-processed and rich in salt or sugar.”

At a LAUNCH Legends roundtable this week in the Bay Area, Tash recounted his investigative journey to Fiji, where he learned about the history and culture behind Fijian storytelling traditions. Tash shared his experiences with leading experts in immersive storytelling and food and nutrition, from sharing legends and folklore around the kava bowl to reading the pages of treasured books.

The focus of the roundtable was to engage guests’ collective insights and knowledge, get feedback, and explore opportunities for collaborative partnerships that could benefit the goal at hand— to make an impact on nutritional outcomes within targeted sites in the Pacific using immersive storytelling and emerging technologies. 

“The roundtable participants came from a diverse range of backgrounds, from nutrition to virtual reality and journalism, which created a fertile environment for creative problem solving around the nutrition challenges we’re looking to tackle with our toolkit of emerging technologies,” said Ben Kreimer, technical advisor for LAUNCH Legends.

LAUNCH Legends roundtable included VR pioneers in the Bay Area, DFAT’s innovationXchange, co-President of the VR/AR Association in San Francisco, and experts in food systems and movement building as well as LAUNCH and SecondMuse team members. 

“What surprised me was to learn that the challenges in the food system are similar to the challenges within the storytelling space,” says Stuart Gill, partner at SecondMuse and LAUNCH. “One of the VR producers today reminded us that the food business and emerging technologies are primarily focused on entertainment as opposed to meeting our basic human needs, like eating and telling compelling human stories,” Gill added.

Through a curated presentation and discussion format, we posed questions about the creative challenge ahead to effectively source learnings from the participants as they apply to this challenge. 

“We learned something powerful today from our engagement with Tash Tan, and that is that the story always comes first and the technology second,” says Jeff Hamaoui, Executive Director of LAUNCH.

Additional Commentary by VRARA SF Chapter Co-president Emily Olman:

The LAUNCH Legends Roundtable in Sausalito brought together leading VR pioneers including Barry Pousman and Daniel Burwen of JauntVR. Participants were informed of progress on the project from one of the LAUNCH Legends Finalist Tash Tan, and further explored how VR/AR can be implemented for the most lasting, behavior-changing impact within the target population. 

The global strength of the VR/AR Association was evident, as Davar Ardalan (D.C. Chapter Member and Sydney Chapter Advisory Board Member), Emily Olman (SF Chapter Co-President), and Tash Tan (Sydney Chapter Member) were all in attendance. The VRARA SF Chapter hopes to collaborate with Ardalan and Tan later this year for a follow-up event.

Learn more about the VR/AR Association, San Francisco Chapter here

Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.