Six weeks ago, two masters students in NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program were assigned a project in their Spatial Media class.
The result: a new way to present a menu. Máximo Sica and Dana Reginiano realised that the way we order food at restaurants has pretty much been the same as far back as they could remember, and they decided it was time for an upgrade.
Sica and Reginiano’s solution was to create a laser system that projects menu options directly onto your plate. A red marker on the plate is detected by the system, and as you rotate the plate and the marker moves, the images shift. So when the marker is at 12 o’clock, for instance, you would see a welcome image, but when you rotate the marker to 2 o’ clock, you’d see an image of grilled fish. Each image is paired with a description above the plate.
For Sica and Reginiano, this project served a few different goals. First of all, it’s more fun and interactive.
“We think that the menu hasn’t changed probably since the first restaurant was opened, a long long time ago, and we thought that it would be fun to try to make something better and a way to provide users of restaurants with a more meaningful experience,” Sica told Business Insider. “We call it what you see is what you get.”
But beyond just being fun, it’s also practical. Instead of having to peek at other diners’ plates to see what looks good, you can just look right at your own plate. You’d get a better idea of what your dish will look like and would theoretically have a better overall dining experience as a result.
The other benefit of this new menu system is that it lessens the language barrier for foreigners like Sica, from Argentina, and Reginiano, from Israel. Instead of struggling to understand what the menu listings mean, you would be able to easily understand from an image.
“With English not our first language, reading the menu in English, especially when you’re with other people, when you’re trying to show your friend what meal you’re going to choose, or you’re looking through the menu and trying to understand, coming up with this menu is not only about a better fun experience it’s also about understanding what you’re going to get,” Reginiano told Business Insider. “You know what to expect.”
While the Virtual Menu may have started out as a school project, Sica and Reginiano plan on continuing the project and working on it during summer break. They plan on talking to restaurant owners and customers to figure out a way to make their prototype scalable.
Here are some screenshots from a video of Virtual Menu’s first prototype:
This is the welcome image that is displayed on the plate.
Here is Reginiano, one of the two cofounders of Virtual Menu.
These are a few of options offered on the Virtual Menu.
When you turn the red marker, the image and description changes.
In a future iteration, the descriptions could also include nutritional and dietary information.