The 'diet glasses' that trick you into eating less

Smarter snacking could be as easy a putting on a pair of specs, thanks to researchers who pioneered a new use for augmented reality

While wearing "diet glasses" that made snacks appear 50 percent larger than their actual size, research subjects consumed 10 percent less of the snack.
(Image credit: YouTube)

In the relatively near future, a seemingly ordinary pair of eyeglasses will be able to snap photos, give directions, and let you video chat with friends. Could they also help you lose weight? Perhaps one day, thanks to a team of researchers from the University of Tokyo that has developed a prototype for a pair of "diet glasses" that use augmented reality to trick weak-willed dieters into eating less. Here, a brief guide to the technology that fools the brain into making better food choices:

How do these glasses work?

Researchers developed camera-equipped goggles that beam images of what you see to a computer, which magnifies the apparent size of the food you see using augmented reality — all while ensuring that your hand looks normal. That makes the food in your hand look bigger than it actually is.

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What did researchers discover?

Volunteers consumed nearly 10 percent less when the snack in their hand was digitally manipulated to appear 50 percent bigger. The reverse, however, also held true: Participants ate 15 percent more when the junk food was adjusted to look two-thirds its normal size.

How did this idea come about?

Michitaka Hirose, a professor from the University of Tokyo's graduate school of information science and technology, wanted to investigate how computers can be used to trick the brain to eat better. "How to fool various senses or how to build on them using computers is very important in the study of virtual reality," he tells AFP.

Did researchers discover anything else?

Yes. Hirose's team designed something they call a "meta cookie," which uses computer wizardry to trick people into thinking they're eating a sweet snack when they're really just biting into a plain old biscuit. Thanks to the goggles, subjects saw a chocolate- or strawberry-flavored cookie — an illusion heightened by matching scents from nearby spritzers. In a surprising 80 percent of cases, the subjects were fooled into thinking they were eating something extra sweet, when they were actually wolfing down run-of-the-mill biscuits.

Why were the goggles so effective?

Tricking more than one sense at a time can fool the subconscious into believing it's doing something it's not doing at all. "Reality is in your mind," says Hirose.

Will I be able to snag a pair?

Not anytime soon, says the International Business Times. The current set-up is bulky, and the University of Tokyo currently has no plans to commercialize the weight-loss specs... at least not yet.

Sources: AFP, Discovery News, International Business Times

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