Close filters





Food & Digital Technology. Augmented Reality goes to the supermarket

None other than Carlo Ratti, an old friend of Meet the Media Guru’s, brought Augmented Reality to the supermarket. He did so with Future Food District,a thematic pavilion at Expo 2015, which turn traditional vertical isles full of goods into a horizontal expanse of display cases surmounted by transparent interactive screens. Products below, all information about milk, eggs or wine in our hands right over: a digital label much easier to read and interactive than those we are used to know.


“Every product has a story to tell – explains his website Ratti, head of the SENSEable City Labof the M.I.T. – Today these pieces of information reach consumers in a fragmented way. Very soon, though, we may discover everything there is to know about an apple we see on a shelf: the green on which it has grown, the CO2it has produced, the chemical treatment it has undergo and the journey before it hit a supermarket shelf”.

In over ten years’ time – not by chance we come from  #FutureWays– will we shop like this, the cart in our hands and the look on browsing prices, origins and nutritional values to know the “story” of the food we serve on our table? Likely. It already happens at Future Food District. The staff no longer mind the robot-waiter as it serves shakes and smoothies, while customers-visitors live a daily experience in a new way, with a communicative approach to conscious purchasing.

Digital economy is revolutionising the way we know (and interact with) food, with a focus on storytelling, which also comes from far away. Do you remember when, as children, we would go to the market with our parents and every time the greengrocer would recommend what to purchase, providing tips and suggestions on the produce on display? This world of knowledge and stories still exists, though in the form of interactive screens, which are less romantic but more thorough.

Another surface, the surface of a smartphone, is the interface through which operate many anti-waste appssuch as Waste No Foodfrom the US, which donates food in excess to those who need it, PareUp, promoting discounts for products close to expiry, and Italian-based (though the name suggests otherwise) Bringthefood, which liaises surplus food demand and offer between private individuals, companies and charities. Thus, technology matches the sharing economy with the goal of promoting an efficient and supportive management of food.


The link between food and innovation is moving from being entirely focused on production to communication, as it happens also for other important elements of our daily lives. No longer machines, but information.

Profiling customers, knowing their taste and needs has always been crucial in managing the food supply chain. What changed is the space in which information moves around. Over the past years these places have become more and more virtual (on-line stores) as well as physical (supermarkets). Technology ensured prairies of “fresh” data for both sides. There was a progressiveshift from targeting to engaging through Social Media, E-Commerce andE-mail Marketing. The case histories presented by the very recent White Paper on Foodby MailUpare proof of it.

Then there are those who prefer promoting their Food events using the 5 senses and a touch of technology, just a bit of noise on Facebook and Twitter, but most of the buzzis caused by word of mouth. The power of food.