What first comes to your mind when you think of virtual reality? I'm guessing it's probably something related to visual entertainment; perhaps video games, or films. It's been fascinating to watch this tech really take off in 2016 and the announcement that key sporting moments from the current Olympics are also going to be shown in VR make me excited about how we can continue to push this innovation into other spheres.
I'm willing to bet, that when you think of Virtual Reality you're not thinking about beer. Virtual Reality and beer in fact, seem like odd bedfellows; how does one drink a virtual pint you might ask.
At Innis & Gunn, we didn't think pairing VR and beer was that odd. We had heard of simulated eating experiences, where people enjoyed gourmet meals in far away lands all from the 'comfort' of a lab in Silicon Valley. That got us thinking. If the brain could be 'convinced' that it was chewing a wagyu steak, when in fact the individual had their mouths closed, how else could we use the power of this impressive technology to impact on people's sensory perceptions?
Most of us will agree that taste is somewhat subjective, the same beer is probably much more refreshing on a hot day in the garden, than drinking alone watching the news on TV. If our surroundings affect how we feel, does that also affect how we taste? And if so, how could we manipulate the mind to 'feel differently' when drinking beer. These are the some of the questions we are attempting to find answers to when we set out to create our very own Virtual Reality experience.
Working closely with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr Jacob Jolij, we've created two VR films that complement two of our most popular beers - Innis & Gunn Original and Innis & Gunn Lager. The films transport the viewer to the Scottish landscapes that inspired us to create these two brews, but the really clever part is that when watching them and sipping the beer, you do not just taste the water, the grains, and the hops, but your brain adds in your previous memories, surroundings, and expectations. For example, in one of the VR films we created, the dense forestry you see connects the brain with the oak-aged tones within the beer before transitioning to a sunset which shifts the focus to its sweetness, creating a dynamic, multi sensory experience.
This blurring of science and art is what fascinates me personally, and what spurs on our fantastic team of brewers up in Scotland. We are committed to pushing the boundaries of the beer industry, we always want to leave the customer better informed about the process and ingredients that go into their beer.
We hope we can inspire others to come up with truly creative ways to use technology to express and promote their passions. The VR industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years and if we can demonstrate how the tech can work with beer, then imagine the hundreds of other fields which may not seem like obvious candidates that can harness the tech to make lasting cultural and social change.
This all used to be the stuff of sci-fi films, but so was video-chat and mobile phones that are now ubiquitous. The future is truly exciting- so don't be surprised the next time you walk into your local and the barman hands you a headset. Simply relax and let the tech take you away.