Future of Food in the Digital Realm

Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting
CHI 2017, Denver, USA

Dates: May 8, 2017

Food printing


Food is one of the fundamental ingredients of life. We cannot go a day without it before experiencing discomfort. Food also has a rich cultural and social history. Its preparation as well as consumption provides opportunities for bonding and interaction among individuals. How we grow, cook, eat and dispose of food are therefore some of the important questions actively discussed within the HCI research community. Advances in food printing technologies add an extra dimension to these established practices and offer opportunities for new interaction experiences. Research is needed to understand how they may affect our practices and relationship with food.

Food printers are a special form of 3D printers that allow creation of edible artifacts from digital designs. Current food printers1,2,3 use viscous materials (e.g. cheese, marzipan, dough and chocolate) and powdered substances (e.g. sugar) to fabricate food. Food printing offers benefits in terms of customization, convenience and novelty. For instance, food printing can potentially connect cooking with digital information, so that traditional recipes can be replaced by 3D print models. One day, supermarkets may offer digital sketches of food recipes that users can download and print at home using a food printer, rather than selling prepared food products. People have also identified food printing’s potential for contributing to food sustainability, personalized nutrition and the alleviation of world hunger by reducing food waste and using materials that would otherwise not be eaten, such as algae and insects.

Food printing is relatively new, costly and often a bit clunky. Attempts are currently being made to improve the efficiency and usability of food printing techniques. Researchers are also exploring application domains to which food printing can contribute. For example, food printing has been used to create easy-to-eat food for the elderly6 and to offer personalized activity treats from data. Despite these efforts, food printing is still confined mostly to hacker and makerspaces and many identified uses of fabricated food are still in the development or visionary stages. Further HCI research has the potential to provide therefore a better understanding concerning how to accommodate a future with digital food.


Using food printing as an exemplar of the digital food movement, we have structured this SIG meeting on the topic of the future of food in the digital realm. We aim to use this SIG to bring together researchers and practitioners from multiple disciplines including personal fabrication, design and creative practice, quantified self, food design, health and nutrition, and physical visualization, in order to:

Develop a mutual understanding of competing/related issues around digital food.

Discuss potential solutions and concepts that contribute to future research directions and requirements

Help shape the research community around food-related technology design.

Tentitive Schedule

  • May 8, 2017

  • Part 1: Introduction

    20 minutes

    We will start the SIG with a technical introduction to food printing. We will sketch out details on the tools currently available and also plan to conduct a short hands-on demonstration with a food printer1 that we will bring along. Seeing the printing in situ will also help participants to gain insights on the limitations and benefits around different parameters of food printing e.g., temperature of food material, the time needed to print the model etc.

  • Part 2: Discussion

    40 minutes

    As a second part, we will outline some challenges and expected trends with regards to food printing. An intensive discussion of the requirements, trends, and challenges in printing food will help researchers to gain a suitable overview and may provide the basis for new research ideas and projects. The key challenges that we will discuss during this SIG are: 1) Printing with multiple foods 2) Tensions around individuals’ perceptions of digital food & food creativity 3) Effect on culinary practices 4) Personalized nutrition

  • Part 3: Food printing

    20 minutes

    We will conclude the SIG with a fun hands-on activity around food. We will bring printable food items and involve participants in mimicking the process of food printing by hand. By engaging participants in this hands-on activity, we aim to unveil new ideas and tactics that might test or outstretch the capabilities of the existing printing technologies.

About the Venue

Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO



Dr. Rohit Ashok Khot
Exertion Games Lab,
RMIT University, Australia

Rohit Ashok Khot is the Deputy Director of the Exertion Games Lab; and VC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Media and Comm. at RMIT University, Australia. Rohit leads the node on ‘Data and new materialities’ within the Design & Creative Practice ECP, where he is exploring the implication of food printing and molecular sensing towards personalized nutrition and improving food literacy.

Full Bio


Prof. Deborah Lupton
Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, Australia

Deborah Lupton is Centenary Research Professor in the News & Media Research Centre, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra. Her latest books are Fat (Routledge, 2013), Digital Sociology (Routledge, 2015) and The Quantified Self: A Sociology of Self-Tracking (Polity, 2016). Her current research interests all involve aspects of digital sociology: big data cultures, self-tracking practices, digital food cultures, and digital health technologies.

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Markéta Dolejšová
National University of Singapore, Singapore

Markéta Dolejšová is PhD Candidate in the Communication and New Media at National University of Singapore, specializing on health and diet self- experimentation in citizen science communities. She has published in CHI and CSCW and organized workshops on food design experimentation at hackerspaces, foodCHI'14 and art spaces globally. She runs several critical food design projects exploring themes around human-food performativity, data edibilization and food design for social good.

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Prof. Florian 'Floyd' Mueller
Exertion Games Lab,
RMIT University, Australia

Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller directs the Exertion Games Lab at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. Floyd’s research is focused on the intersection of play, technology and the active human body, aiming to support human values. His team’s Exertion Games were played by over 20,000 players across 3 continents and were featured on the BBC, ABC, Discovery Science Channel and Wired magazine.

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