A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.
Are coffee consumers influenced by the imagery and story around the production of the drink? Such was one of the central questions of a new study that explored the power of marketing on how "premium" aficionados consider coffee to be.
The researchers set out to explore whether the origins of the coffee can affect the perception of its quality in the minds of the drinkers. In particular, they focused on the concept of terroir, the special characteristics conferred upon the coffee by the specific terrain in which it was grown.
"Terroir is more than a mere geographical link between product and land," write the authors. "It relates to the idea that products are a unique expression of different environmental and sociocultural characteristics of a specific place." Thus, focusing a customer's attention on the environment in which the coffee was grown might make the product seem more authentic and of better quality.
Therefore, the researchers examined the effect of images on the coffee-drinking experience in three experiments. The study was carried out by the food scientist Francisco Barbosa Escobar from Aarhus University in Denmark and marketing experts Olivia Petit from the Kedge Business School in Marseille, France, and Carlos Velasco from the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway. Incidentally, Norwegians are among the world's top coffee consumers, with an average Norwegian adult consuming around 4 cups of coffee a day, reports Statistics Norway.
The first experiment involved 770 non-expert participants from the UK. They were shown online images and descriptions of four different specialty coffees, traded by a Norwegian coffee company. The researchers found that coffees with pictures of farms were rated higher in premiumness by the subjects than coffees with pictures of cities.
For the second and third experiments, the study used virtual reality environments of Times Square in New York City and a farm in Kenya as well as a control setting of a white room. The second experiment engaged 143 non-expert participants recruited via a behavioral studies platform at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway. The participants were asked to smell a sample of quality ground coffee from Kenya while at the same time traversing a virtual reality atmosphere. The subjects were then asked to rate the coffee.
Image (A) shows the instruments used in Experiment 2: Oculus GO virtual reality (VR) headset and sample coffee bag. The other panels show the VR environments used in the study - (B) farm, (C) city, and (D) control.Credit: Escobar / Petit / Velasco, Frontiers in Psychology
Compared to the control (white room), subjects in the farm VR atmosphere rated the coffee as more acidic. Conversely, subjects rated coffee as sweeter when inside the control VR atmosphere compared to the city VR atmosphere. Furthermore, coffee was considered more premium when subjects were in the farm VR atmosphere compared to the control, but there was no difference in premiumness score between farm and city.
For the third experiment, the research team involved 34 people who were professionals in the coffee industry. They were asked to taste and score Kenyan coffee while being in the same city and farm VR environments used in the previous experiment. The results revealed a strong effect of atmosphere on how much the experts enjoyed their experience, with a much greater preference for the farm setting versus the control environment of a white room.
But the different VR atmospheres had little effect on how the experts rated the premiumness of the coffee. The researchers believe that "given their specialized knowledge, coffee professionals examined more objective attributes of the coffee and could discriminate intrinsic factors relevant for the assessment of the coffee from irrelevant extrinsic cues."
The researchers think their results can lead to developing more immersive marketing experiences in virtual reality, which could be groundbreaking in many industries. A premium experience can lead to customers paying premium prices.
"Interacting" with nature through virtual reality applications had especially strong benefits, according to the study.
- Previous studies have shown that spending time in nature can lead to a variety of mental and physical health benefits.
- The new study involved exposing people to a high-definition nature program through one of three mediums: TV, VR and interactive VR.
- The results suggest that nature programs may be an easy and effective way to give people a "dose" of nature, which may be especially helpful during pandemic lockdowns.
Spending time in nature can bring you well-established health benefits, from lowered anxiety and depression, to reduced blood pressure and a stronger immune system. But how nature produces these effects remains unclear. Is it the awe you feel hiking through a centuries-old forest? Time spent away from screens? The physical exercise?
Recent research adds a new dimension to scientists' understanding of how nature impacts wellbeing. The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that people who watched high-definition nature programs on TV or in virtual reality reported lower levels of boredom and other negative emotions.
For the study, researchers at the University of Exeter asked 96 participants to watch a video of a person describing their job at an office supply company. This was done to induce boredom.
The participants then watched or interacted with a nature program about a coral reef (which includes several scenes from the BBC's "Blue Planet II" series) under one of three randomly assigned conditions:
- 2D video viewed on a high-definition TV screen
- 360-degree VR, viewed via a head mounted display (HMD)
- Interactive computer-generated VR (CG-VR), also viewed via a HMD and interacted with using a hand-held controller
Example stills from the TV (top left), 360-VR (top right) and CG-VR (bottom right) exposure conditions.
Credit: Yeo et al.
The results showed that watching the nature program under all three conditions lowered negative affect, including emotions like boredom and sadness. But only the group who experienced the program in interactive VR reported a boost in mood, and feelings of being more connected to nature.
"Our results show that simply watching nature on TV can help to lift people's mood and combat boredom," lead researcher Nicky Yeo told University of Exeter News. "With people around the world facing limited access to outdoor environments because of COVID-19 quarantines, this study suggests that nature programmes might offer an accessible way for populations to benefit from a 'dose' of digital nature."
Helping those without access to nature
"Dose" is probably a keyword: The researchers didn't compare the benefits of experiencing nature via TV or VR to experiencing it in person. But even beyond the pandemic, the findings suggest that experiencing nature via virtual reality could help people improve their mental wellbeing — a tool that could prove especially useful for people who don't live near natural environments.
"Virtual reality could help us to boost the wellbeing of people who can't readily access the natural world, such as those in hospital or in long term care," co-author Mathew White told University of Exeter News. "But it might also help to encourage a deeper connection to nature in healthy populations, a mechanism which can foster more pro-environmental behaviours and prompt people to protect and preserve nature in the real world."
High-end VR headsets remain prohibitively costly for many consumers. One of the cheapest models, the Oculus Quest 2, costs $300, while more advanced headsets can run upward of $1,000. Still, you can buy barebones devices, like Google Cardboard, for about $10. These don't enable you to engage in fully interactive VR applications, but you could use them to view 360-degree virtual reality nature videos on YouTube.
What would it be like to live in the body of someone else? With VR, now you can actually find out.
What would it be like to live in the body of someone else? Since the dawn of mankind, people have imagined what it would be like to inhabit another body, just for a day or even for a few minutes. Thanks to the magic of VR, we can now do that. Jeremy Bailenson, the creator of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has designed a VR experience called 1000 Cut Journey that may change the way people see race: by experiencing it firsthand. Jeremy explains to us, "You start out as an elementary school child and you’re in a classroom. You then become a teenager and you’re interacting with police officers. You then become an adult who’s going on a job interview, and what you experience while wearing the body of a black male is implicit bias that happens repeatedly and over time." Jeremy is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion are essential to the growth and prosperity of today’s companies. When woven into every aspect of the talent life cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are the best equipped to innovate, and improve brand image and drive performance.
By being someone else, and seeing and discovering the world through the eyes of other people, that can only increase our empathy... and decrease our own egocentric view of the world.
VR could very well be a greater storytelling medium than video games and TV. By being someone else, and seeing and discovering the world through the eyes of other people, that can only increase our empathy... and decrease our own egocentric view of the world. Documentarian Danfung Dennis thinks that virtual reality is an untapped resource that we should keep our eyes on (literally and figuratively), as the right story at the right time could change the world. Imagine a congressman from Texas watching climate change happen at the polar ice caps before their very eyes. It's a powerful prospect. Danfung Dennis is the founder of Condition One, a VR production and technology studio that has created VR experiences for National Geographic, The New York Times, Google, and Hulu.
A new technology hopes to provide customers with "human surrogates" who strap screens to their faces so they can interact with the world on customers' behalf.
The “Human Uber” could soon hit the gig economy in a big way. And though you may assume that means strangers will soon be paying each other for piggyback rides, rest assured, the reality is somehow stranger.
ChameleonMask hopes to provide people with human surrogates who would interact with the real world on the customer’s behalf. To do this, each surrogate would wear a screen on their head that displays the customer’s face and plays the customer’s voice. The service would theoretically allow you to attend parties and other social functions from the comfort of your bed, achieving something known as telepresence, while you give directions to your surrogate — even so far as telling them what to wear.
If the technology sounds complex, it probably shouldn’t: ChameleonMask seems little more complicated than taping an iPad to your broke friend’s forehead, switching on FaceTime, and then paying him to attend a work party on your behalf while you try to act like it’s all normal, presumably by ordering your surrogate to strike a nonchalant pose.
ChameleonMask creator Jun Rekimoto, a Japanese AR/VR researcher affiliated with Sony, showed off his new tool at At MIT Tech Review’s EmTech (the em for emerging) conference in Singapore last week. He reportedly called it “surprisingly natural.”
“Human Uber,” developed in Japan, provides a way to attend events remotely using another person’s body. “It’s surprisingly natural” says its inventor, Jin Rekimoto of Sony #emtechasia pic.twitter.com/WZHPVcZ6M0
— will knight (@willknight) January 30, 2018