|Arm-A-Dine is a new device that feeds the user or someone they're eating with. / Photo by: Wang Tom via 123rf|
Social eating is an interesting new trend, to be differentiated from humans' normal dining habits. While people talking and bonding while is already a natural part of human culture, this trend takes it to a different level. Social eating has boomed in platforms like YouTube, where people eat while talking to their viewers, and use their food as a medium for conversation. This was studied even further by the Exertion Games Lab at the RMIT University in Australia, with the help of chest-mounted social feeding robots.
This new device, called Arm-A-Dine, was designed to be a novel two-person eating system that focuses on shared eating and the experience it provides. In this new type of social eating experience, all three arms (the person’s two and the robot’s third) are used to feed oneself and the other person. This arm is attached to the person via a vest on their body, and feeds the final pieces of food to either the wearer or the partner, depending on the facial expressions it senses on them. For safety reasons, the arm doesn’t actually feed anyone, stopping close to 10 centimeters from a person’s face before the person is expected to get the food themselves. Regardless, the Arm-A-Dine takes the social element of food and makes it priority. The researchers' tests included bringing participants a large table of food, giving them the simple instruction of ‘eat casually with your partner’, and letting them do what would come naturally to them when food and people were in front of them.
Although the device is still slightly clunky and somewhat awkward, the team's experiment provided valuable insight into what this kind of technology could provide to humans, especially in social situations. The Arm-A-Dine reportedly left participants feeling nostalgic, rewarded. and focused -- not just on the food, but their dining partner.