Wageningen University: Assessing flavour with the help of VR glasses
Flavour of horticultural products is important to consumers. That is why many growers and breeders have their products tested by the flavour panel of the Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture of Wageningen University & Research. Due to the corona crisis, testing is mainly done at home with the members of the flavour panel. In the future they may get help from VR glasses.
There are two types of flavour panels. First of all, the consumer panel: that tests the liking of a product. In addition, there are several different rained sensory panels. They distinguish a wide variety of flavour attributes. The highly trained panel members can identify and describe the different flavour attributes in products. These panels make use of a list of flavour attributes (descriptors), for example juiciness or firmness.
Due to the corona crisis, many activities of the flavour panels can no longer physically take place at the location in Bleiswijk. This applies, for example for our trained sensory panels. Our sensory panel training takes place online to train our sensory panel to accurately describe their flavour experiences. Half an hour before the training, the panel members pick up a package of products from the WUR in Bleiswijk, so that they are fresh during the online meeting. In the past year for example, online sensory training was held on the products apples, carrots and beetroot.
Alternatives for visual assessments
Flavour is also a matter of perception. That is why a small test room supermarket has been recreated in the WUR building in Bleiswijk, so that visual assessment can be carried out. Due to the corona crisis the visual assessment was a challenge. Therefor last year a number of alternatives were investigated, namely: VR glasses (ie: Virtual Reality), a questionnaire with photos of the samples and a short visit to the test room supermarket, followed by an assessment at home. In the latter case, the products were collected by the panel members from the WUR building in Bleiswijk and then assessed at home.
The scores of the flavour planellists with the VR glasses were most similar to the scores during the ‘old normal’. The examined VR glasses resemble a kind of small reading glasses that you attach to a smartphone. A photo of the WUR supermarket can then be viewed in 360° with this. In the coming year, it will be investigated how these VR glasses can be used as effectively as possible for visual research on fruit and vegetables.
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