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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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Sleight of hand: University of Tokyo professor Michitaka Hirose and a member of his team demonstrate camera-equipped special goggles that make cookies appear bigger to help users' diet at his Tokyo laboratory Saturday. AFP-JIJI

Special goggles can fool wearers into eating less


Goggles that trick the wearer into thinking the plain snack in their hand is a chocolate cookie or make crackers appear larger may offer hope to weak-willed dieters everywhere.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed devices that use computer wizardry and augmented reality to fool the senses and make users feel more satisfied with smaller or less appealing treats.

On one device, goggle-mounted cameras send images to a computer, which magnifies the apparent size of the cookie in the image it displays to the wearer while keeping the wearer's hand the same size, making the snack appear larger than it actually is.

In experiments, volunteers consumed nearly 10 percent less when the crackers they were eating appeared 50 percent bigger.

They ate 15 percent more when cookies were manipulated to look two-thirds of their real size.

Professor Michitaka Hirose at the university's graduate school of information science and technology said he was interested in how computers can be used to trick the human mind.

"How to fool various senses or how to build on them using computers is very important in the study of virtual reality," he said.

Hirose said standard virtual reality equipment that attempts to cater to complex senses like touch is often bulky.

But he said using one or more senses to fool the others was a way around this problem.

"Reality is in your mind," he said.

In another project, Hirose's team developed a "meta cookie," where the headgear uses scent bottles and visual trickery to fool the wearer into thinking the snack to be consumed is anything but a plain cracker.

Users can set the device to their favorite taste so they think they are eating a chocolate or strawberry cookie, for example.

Hirose said experiments so far have shown 80 percent of subjects are fooled.

The team has no plans as yet to commercialize the invention, but members would like to investigate whether people wanting to lose weight can use the device.

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The Japan Times

Article 5 of 16 in National news

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