Extended Food

How technology can help improve quality of life while also decreasing environmental impact.

Wo Meijer
3 min readJun 27, 2019


look! Food in spaaaaace!

I love food. I think food, nay cuisine, offers so many things that are key to a full and happy life. It’s got ceremony, comfort, culture, ritual, community, and best of all the amazing delight of having a new tasty food.

But there’s an issue, our planet cannot support everyone having access to good quality food (not to mention economic, political, and logistic issues with even basic food). This is one of the many ways in which we benefit from our first world status.

If we look at food in a more Muskian way, a more sci-fi based lens (which lets us talk about pseudo environmental issues with a more optimistic approach). How can we bring fine cuisine to future generations living in Mars and beyond?

The solution, is Extended Food.

What is extended food?

Well, I call it extended because it uses either virtual or augmented reality technology, so I’ll bundle it together as extended reality. The basis for this is some reason into virtual taste I stumbled across while working on my graduation.

No, really, what is extended food?

It’s simple, we take trick people into thinking they’re eating amazing cuisine using sight, sound, taste, and smell. However, unlike virtual tasting, we actually feed the user with a nutritious and easy to manufacture food.

It’s like a brighter digital layer on top of the grim future of Soylent.

With virtual food, you get the psychological (and hopefully social) benefits of good food with the logistical and environmental advantages of whatever food is around.

Why should I care?

Well besides giving people the possibility to eat amazing food for a cheaper price (and giving chefs the opportunity to make foods that were previously unthinkable), it gives us the chance to make amazing food with a very low environmental impact. There’s no ingredient more “locally grown” than yeast grown in the spaceship our offspring will one day live in. If you live in a country that only has potatoes, you can use those to simulate food from thousands of kilometers away. The impact is mind boggling.

What are some weird thoughts on this?

Well, it can end up very distopiatic (not sure if thats a word). This could be a step towards and entirely virtual, almost matrix esq, future.

But the intermediate step would see food as a service be brought to a whole different level, we could have an Instagram for flavor, where you taste what chefs around the world are making. The level of experimentation and control over food would go beyond molecular gastronomy and food 3D printing (more on that later). We would be able to subtly alter flavors so that each person gets a better experience while eating the “same” dish. There will be legal battles over who owns and created what flavor. Food would have DLC (dessert loadable content?). It’s weird to think about

Cooking would become a leisure activity only. While I like the idea that meal boxes give people opportunities to discover the joy of cooking, all of the marketing seems to be aimed at people who see cooking as a needlessly complicated chore. They would be able to just plug in and eat.

Biodiversity could go up. Depending on how easy it is to create a blank good canvas, we would no longer need to standardize foods across borders and be able to use things like insects (which we should totally do right now).

One last thought

I know that this is a bit of a ramble about the far future, but one issue I can think about right now is the difficulty of representing the food entirely virtually. So, one “sense” we could replicate better is the texture of the food. Mouthfeel is important, and we can use a food 3D printer to create food with the correct shape and texture using our processed food base.

What now!?!?

I don’t know about you, but I am super excited about the possibilities presented here! Do you have thoughts on extended food? Are you scared I will replace all chefs? Are you a place with a research budget who wants to support me doing crazy research into this? Comment! Share! Think!



Wo Meijer

PhD candidate, TU Delft