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What’s On the Menu? Augmented Reality and 3-D Food Models

November 27, 2017

At Vino Levantino wine bar in New York City, the desserts are delicious but not always so straightforward.

“We have a few desserts that are not usual ... or people (are) not familiar with them,” owner Haim Amit said. “Like we have the kadaif, I mean, not everyone knows what’s kadaif.”

Rather than explain the traditional Middle Eastern dessert to customers, Amit shows them.

Using the Kabaq augmented reality application on an iPad, he demonstrates how virtual, 3-D models of desserts can now be superimposed onto the tabletop in front of customers.

The 3-D models look incredibly realistic, not to mention mouthwatering.

How it works

“Humans are visual creatures,” Kabaq founder Alper Guler said. The tech startup is helping diners decide what to eat, and in the process, giving traditional menus a digital twist.

Guler and his team visit participating restaurants to capture 3-D images of their dishes. Using a portable, tabletop photo booth, they place dishes on a turntable inside.

“What we do is we turn the food every second and stop it, and capture from that angle,” Guler said. Cameras placed at varying heights capture all possible angles and the images are processed back at Kabaq offices to create 3-D models. Kabaq charges $99-$199 per month for their services.

Sales, fun increase

The technology is proving to be good for business.

Amit said that overall sales have increased about 22 percent since the business began using Kabaq in June.

“We’re helping restaurant owners to raise their check averages by selling more desserts,” said Guler, who likened Kabaq to a modern-day dessert cart.

“There’s a lot of really strong applications for visualizing the food and showing the customer what they’re going to get,” said Mike Cadoux, Kabaq’s head of sales and partnerships. “If I was going to get the $17 pasta, but I see the $28 steak and it looks amazing, and I go for the $28 steak, that’s a huge value add to so many restaurants up and down the street.”

But it’s also the opportunity for a unique dining experience that Amit says has customers noticeably excited.

“They don’t expect it and they really like it. They’re surprised that we come with something digital, it’s almost like a toy,” Amit said.

On a recent night, two 20-something customers took an immediate liking to the app.

“It’s like you have the whole plate in front of you, it’s amazing,” one said.

Foodies love the technology

3-D scanning technology, in which objects are captured from all sides, is turning out to be a good fit for foodies.

Artist Romain Rouffet used 3-D scanning to create a 3-D recipe for banoffee pie that users can zoom in and out of and view from all angles. The resulting video is potentially a sign of innovations to come.

“Augmented reality and 3-D viewing and these kinds of medium ... are just integral to that next generation of experience,” Cadoux said.

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