A new app which monitors facial expressions to assess mood and then suggests the perfect food to lift or the spirits, or quell anxiety, has been developed by scientists at Oxford University.
Professor Charles Spence an experimental scientist has teamed up with food delivery service ‘Just Eat’ to launch new ‘mood mapping’ technology which is being trialled for the first time this weekend ahead of a roll out later this year.
The new app scans the face for signs of emotions, such as downturned lips and eyes and frown lines, and can often pick up on hidden feelings that a person may be ignoring.
"Face mapping can provide a more accurate and objective assessment of a person's mood or emotional state than they can,” said Prof Spence.
“Often people are not able to say how they are feeling or just don't feel they want to. After all, we might know that we are in a bad mood, but not know why.
"There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that your mood has a significant impact on your taste and smell - it can deaden or liven the effect of both - a reverse of this is also believed to be true, that food can have a number of effects on your mood."
Prof Spence has worked with Heston Blumenthal and the former El Bulli chef Ferran Adrià on involving the other senses in the pursuit of taste and currently runs the University of Oxford's Crossmodal Research Laboratory.
He said that mood and emotion can affect the ‘sensory discriminatory aspects of tasting’ which is why people often stop eating following a relationship break-up or when they are grieving because food simply does not taste as good as during happier times.
"This is at the very cutting edge of what technology and science can do but in the future it is likely to become much more the norm,” he added.
The app can detect anger, disgust, fear, surprise, sadness and joy and makes menu suggestions according to what it finds. For example, an angry face suggests that a person is stressed and so would benefit from calming foods, such as dark chocolate and nuts which contain magnesium.
In contrast, people who are excited may benefit from blood sugar regulating foods such as whole grains and legumes
Nutritionist Ruth Tongue, said: "Not only do our moods affect the foods we choose to eat, but the foods we eat can in turn help us to feel happier, energised, relaxed, focused or fired up and ready for the day.
“It’s important to recognise the relationship between the foods we eat and our moods so that we can ensure that we’re looking after not only our physical, but also our emotional wellbeing."
Graham Corfield, UK Managing Director of Just Eat added: "We know that mood plays a part in what we choose to eat, so innovations like Emotion-Analysis-Technology, while fun, also serve a real purpose.
“Ultimately we want people be thinking about food and the impact it can have on their daily life."