Augmented reality (AR) headsets could soon be the virtual diet pill of the future. AR alters our perceptions to make meals seem bigger, say researchers.
A Japanese team has shown how the simple AR trick can reduce the amount headset wearers eat by up to 10 percent.
They also found that the same trick reversed can help those with little appetite eat more by boosting consumption by 15 percent.
Researchers from the University of Tokyo developed special software for AR headsets which scales up the size of the food in front of the wearer in real time.
The system uses a deformation algorithm to alter the shape of the hands in line with the size of the food to create what seems to the wearer like a natural image.
In laboratory tests, the team from Tokyo University's Hirose-Tanikawa lab found that when food was magnified by 1.5 times, the amount eaten fell by about 10 percent.
Conversely, when the appearance of the food was shrunk to two-thirds its actual size, the amount test subjects ate rose by 15 percent.
"This technology can stimulate a feeling of having eaten enough visually," the Daily Mail quoted Takuji Narumi, a member of the team, as telling DigInfo.tv.
"We've found that when food looks bigger, you feel full right away, but when it looks small, you don't feel full even if you eat a lot," Narumi said.
He explained how the thinking behind the system dovetails from recent studies into obesity carried out in the U.S., where a shocking 35.9 percent of adults over 20 are obese, and a further 33.3 percent of adults are overweight.
Findings from these studies have shown that the amount of food that people eat is often affected by the size of the plates and packages from which it is served.
It has been shown that large plates, which make portions look smaller, encourage consumers to eat more.
So far the Japanese system only works against a blue screen background, which helps the software to process the images more easily.