Dubai: New virtual dining experience allows guests to pluck their vegetables from 'forest'

Dreamscape, a VR company co-founded by Steven Spielberg, presents a unique immersive edutainment dining concept


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Wed 22 Feb 2023, 3:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 23 Feb 2023, 12:15 AM

Imagine walking into a restaurant for dinner, only to find yourself immersed in a whole other world - linked to the meal you are about to eat. This is not a far-fetched exercise in imagination, but an immersive technology that very much exists in our world.

Speaking at Gulfood 2023, Ronald Menzel, investor and advisor in Our Hidden Worlds, shared his experience in taking dining experiences to the next level with immersive technologies. These experiences, that combine edutainment with the meal, could potentially lead to more conscious consumers, he said.

Reinventing the user experience, he explained, is key to his work. He spoke about two ways in which he has accomplished this. The first experience is with Dreamscape, in which the diners immerse themselves in a digital world using VR headsets. The second, Our Hidden World, uses projections – augmented reality – to immerse diners in a different way.

Speaking about Dreamscape, he said the idea to use VR in a dining context came from the first time he tried the technology developed by his friends. “I went to see them and found myself transported into Tutankhamun’s tomb. I took a torch and walked through a digital world. It was amazing and I decided to build a company around it,” he said.

At the time, said Ronald, film director Steven Spielberg was filming his movie 'Ready Player One', a story about virtual reality. He reached out to the company that was actually building the technology he was showing in his movie. “We met him, showed him what we’re doing, and he was impressed and said: 'Let’s create a company together'. He became one of my co-founders at Dreamscape,” said Ronald.

Him and his team worked on creating beverages linked with experiences people were living with the VR. “We realized then that you can’t just do innovative food which uses state-of-the-art technologies that people were not consuming. They only started consuming it when it was integrated into the user journey,” he said.

In another experience they created, he created a forest where people entered and “plucked” different plants and people were eating them – they were dishes that were prepared by cooks. “It was an amazing experience to see something that is different from what you were eating in the real world,” he said.

Our Hidden World, gives diners a different experience with projection technology. He gave the example of a pop-up experience which they did recently in Miami that allowed diners the chance to be part of a multisensory, immersive dining experience.

He showed a 10-course Michelin star dinner where every dish has a story. “By eating each dish, you will contribute to the health of the ocean through the selection of the species – either taking them out or regulating them,” he said.

Just using technology to make food look cooler does not work, said Ronald. “You need to think about storytelling and something that is completely integrated – great food and technology. It’s about the story you’re going to tell. People need to feel that it isn’t just a gimmick but something that is real,” he added.


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