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Starship Talks CyberCook, VR Cooking and More

Yesterday saw the announcement of CyberCook, a unique cooking simulation platform that hopes to take cookery classes to the next level with the help of the Gear VR smartphone-based virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD). The announcement marks one of the first examples of VR technology mixing with the food industry, something that has massive potential going forward. VRFocus recently spoke to CyberCook developer Starship about that potential and more.

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In the interview the developer’s Mike Humphrey talks about how CyberCook will grow from the CyberCook Taster demo launched this week into a full platform. He also talks about the intriguing in-app purchases for the platform as well as the chance of seeing it come to other HMDs. VRFocus will continue to follow CyberCook closely, reporting back with any further updates from the company.

VRFocus: Where did the idea for CyberCook come from?

Mike Humphrey: Our CEO, Martin Kenwright had an idea about what possibilities would be created if he mixed his experience of creating world class simulation with the world of food. He came across an image of some prawns that had been digitally produced and it struck him that, while they looked good, they were obviously just a static image and therefore not interactive in any way. It started him wondering what it would be like if we could produce something that looks just as good as the real thing but also be interactive. That’s where the seed of the idea came from.

VRFocus: Just how extensive is the list of recipes?

Mike Humphrey: In CyberCook Taster, we’re just giving a very small sample of the recipes that will be on offer. The full CyberCook experience should be thought of more as a platform than as a single app with a finite amount of content. We will continue to build a library of recipes, ingredients, cooking and preparation processes, as we build towards a fully equipped virtual kitchen. And that’s just the start.

VRFocus: Why does CyberCook necessarily have to be a VR experience? Could it not exist on standard displays?

Mike Humphrey: The full CyberCook experience is much more than just a VR product, but CyberCook Taster is a purpose built demo, designed from the ground up to work in VR. It is intended to give people just a taste of what the full CyberCook platform will become. CyberCook’s journey on non-VR platforms begins with a very different demo, CyberCook Slice, which will soon be available across multiple mobile devices.

VRFocus: How does CyberCook ensure that users will be able to accurately replicate certain actions such as slicing ingredients?

Mike Humphrey: Our team is working on a number of cooking and preparation processes as we speak, using our extensive background in simulation technology, along with partnerships in the world of cooking education, to ensure a realistic feel to each specific feature. These processes will be rolled out over time but we also want to engage with our users and bring them into the creative process. We’re realistic in that we understand the complexities of cooking and food preparation, and we know we won’t be delivering every interaction possible in the kitchen right from day one. We want to hear from our users, and build the product to deliver the kind of experience that they really want to engage with.

VRFocus: Cookery books may be passive, but they allow users to cook along with a recipe. Do you anticipate users doing this with CyberCook?

Mike Humphrey: Absolutely. The app uses an intuitive user interface to guide you through cooking the virtual recipe, which can then be used along with real ingredients in order to cook the actual meal.

VRFocus: How will the in-app store work? Have you partnered with a retail company for these purchases?

Mike Humphrey: There are multiple threads to the in-app store in CyberCook; it will function as a portal for users to adorn their virtual kitchen with all the latest gadgets, appliances and ingredients, as well as linking directly to retail outlets so that people can purchase the real world companions. It also provides a new way of celebrity chefs delivering their unique cooking style directly to you in CyberCook.

VRFocus: You’ve mentioned a CyberCook Slice as a ‘cross-platform’ demo. What platforms will it be coming to?

Mike Humphrey: Right now we’re working multiple mobile platforms, as well as VR, taking full advantage of the latest hardware to create something that is truly breathtaking. However, we’ll also be releasing across as many other devices as we can to bring CyberCook to as wide an audience as possible.

VRFocus: Could CyberCook head to other head-mounted displays such as the Oculus Rift in time?

Mike Humphrey: VR seems to be a natural fit for CyberCook, so we’re happy to explore any options that we’re presented with.

VRFocus: Do you have an idea of when Cybercook might release in full?

Mike Humphrey: We are going to be rolling out features over the coming months, building towards our final vision for CyberCook. However, our ambitions for the platform are huge, so we know this isn’t going to be a quick process. We want CyberCook to grow as a platform, to become a source of entertainment, education and inspiration for our users and something that they not only keep coming back to, but to become something that they have helped steer and nurture.