UJ’s Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL) was established to promote, enhance and encourage research on food evolution to ensure healthier lifestyles and to create a sustainable future. Positioned within UJ’s School of Tourism and Hospitality, FERL focuses on helping people be more cognisant of nutrition, and aware of how their health changes as they move into urban environments, or as they shift from indigenous to Westernised diets.
A VIRTUAL APPROACH
“The laboratory has been virtual from the start,” explains Dr Hema Kesa, the Director of FERL. “Our intention is to use technology to conduct our research, thereby implementing novel approaches towards South African food science and nutrition research.”
Recently, FERL has been investigating how it can take this further by incorporating 4IR elements into some of its programmes, particularly through the use of extended reality (XR). Dr Herman Myburgh, who recently joined the FERL team, is also exploring the advantages of using virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR).
Using XR allows the researchers to discover new ways of thinking about our various food environments. “For example, using 360-degree cameras, different food environments can be recorded in four dimensions and later analysed, compared and shared,” Dr Myburgh explains. “What’s more, adjusting the height of the camera changes the viewer’s frame of reference, and allows a supermarket to be viewed from the perspective of a child, for instance.” This approach to data collection delivers useful and meaningful results.