Food Probe by Philips Design



Philips Design in Eindhoven have designed a series of conceptual products for food, including a machine (below) that prints combinations of ingredients into shapes and consistencies specified by the user (above). Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


The device, akin to a rapid prototyping machine for food, was conceived as part of the company's Design Probes scheme, which investigates how we may live in 15-20 years' time.


Foods would be constructed from ingredients corresponding to the nutritional needs of the user, using a similar process to rapid prototyping.


It could be used in conjunction with two other innovations envisaged as part of the same project: a scanning wand for analysing the user's individual nutritional needs and the nutritional value of food items, and a system for farming in the home.


Here's some more information from Philips Design:


Info On Project

Philips Design's ongoing design probes program has been further extended with three explorations into the area of food.


These projects - Diagnostic Kitchen, Food Creation and Home Farming - take a provocative and unconventional look at areas that could have a profound effect on the way we eat and source our food 15-20 years from now.


New ways of looking at food

"We were very interested in new ways of looking at what we eat and the processes that food undergoes before we consume it," says Clive van Heerden, Senior Director of design-led innovation at Philips Design.


These investigations took into consideration wider societal trends like the shift in emphasis from curative to prevent medicine, the growth in popularity of organic ingredients, genetic modification, land use patterns in growing food, the threat of serious food shortages and rising food prices.


Three interlinked areas of exploration were identified: the Diagnostic Kitchen, Food Creation and Home Farming.


Proper analysis of our diets

The Diagnostic Kitchen concept allows people to take an accurate and personally relevant look at what they eat. Rather than relying on general information like 'recommended daily intake' it becomes possible to scan food and analyze how well its contents match your current needs.


By using the Nutrition monitor, consisting of a scanning ‘wand’ and swallowable sensor, you could, for example, determine exactly how much you should eat to match your digestive health and nutritional requirements.


It would also be possible to use the monitor to analyze food in the shops before deciding what to buy.


All of this would obviously be of enormous benefit for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Food printing

The second exploration area, Food Creation, has been inspired by the so-called 'molecular gastronomists.' These chefs deconstruct food and then reassemble it in completely different ways, so for instance you could be served carrot as foam or parmesan cheese as a strand of spaghetti.


"We wanted to examine how you could take this idea further in the domestic environment" says van Heerden. This led to the concept of a Food printer, which would essentially accept various edible ingredients and then combine and ‘print’ them in the desired shape and consistency, in much the same way as stereolithographic printers create 3-D representations of product concepts.


The nutritional value and relevance of what was being 'printed' could also be adjusted based on input from the diagnostic kitchen’s nutrition monitor.

Growing food in the living room

Home Farming, as the name suggests, explores growing at least part of your daily food inside your house. "People are increasingly concerned about how their food has been manipulated and processed, genetic modification, global shortages, environmental degradation through monoculture, the distance food travels before reaching their plates and many other related issues," says van Heerden.


“One way of addressing such legitimate concerns is to source the food yourself by having a biosphere in your living room.” This Biosphere home farm contains fish, crustaceans, algae, plants and other mini-ecosystems, all interdependent and in balance with each other. Making families all over the world at least partly self-sufficient in this way has obvious appeal.


Stimulating discussion

The intention, as with all probe programs, is to elicit reaction and provoke discussion which can be used to further refine the ideas.

About the probes program

The Philips Design probes program is a unique foresighting initiative which tracks emerging developments in five main areas - politics, economics, environment, technology and culture. The outcomes of this 'far-future' research are used to identify systemic shifts that could affect business in years to come and that could lead to new areas in which to develop intellectual property.


Posted on Tuesday September 8th 2009 at 4:27 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • B

    I think by the time this is all possible we will have moved on from the “imac/apple look”

  • Form factor wise, Phillips used to be more innoative in its research. These products are closer to Dieter Rams’s work than to an exploration in future objects shapes. Or have we hit the wall with Dieter ?

  • LOW

    Danger Will Robinson, Danger! That is not cheese!

  • Rikard

    Dear LOW, I think I love you a little. R

  • fran

    those models are so fake… fishes are just painted in that glass wall… those systems are inoperant pieces of art… An ecosystem do not work as easy as they think, you can not put some plants, water and 2 o 3 fishes and pretend to work perfectly, check the eden project, and you will see it is not as easy as it looks

  • Matthias

    A perfect candidate for

  • We already live now in such way the only difference is that Philips Design offers us, what we’re doing now, but later on with more aesthetic and smarter way to live in a daily life. By the way, this not at all my style to live like that… Anyway, this great idea deserves reflection, because we live in a time where the microwave oven, the Webcam, the mobile phone and the computer become common to us… Why not this idea!

    Francois Beydoun

  • Beheld

    I agree with the comment above that this looks way too “un-futuristic”

  • student101

    in the future we will all be eating food in pill form, driving hover cars and waering silver spandex… everyone knows that

    • Bovit

      And spelling will no longer matter.

  • amsam

    Wow, computers that can scan us to see exactly which nutrients we need, and then manufacture foods that contain those very nutrients! “All of this would obviously be of enormous benefit for those trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.” Oh yes, obviously! I can’t imagine what could *possibly* go wrong with that plan.

    (By the way, since none none of this technology actually exists, how is this “project” even remotely different from what the writers of the Star Trek TV series did in the 60’s?)

  • johan_mitoka

    I think what Philips Design has offered is a horrifying glimpse into our future, where food is reduced to highly processed and condensed decorative pieces. I dearly hope that such a future will not happen in my lifetime as I still want to smell the aroma, feel and taste the freshness of my meals prepared with real vegetables and meat. Gosh !!

  • Uncle Did

    The real progress will be when the half of this planet that starve can eat as well as “we” do know. And that is already a goal very difficult to reach. Come back to earth and forget this futuristic crap !


    I don’t really get it !

  • Cindy Berman

    Amazing! Really makes you think in completely different ways about how the world could look.

    I’m particularly interested in the social and environmental issues and what it all means for how we live in our own homes and in society!

    Looking forward to seeing the next generation of forward-thinking research from Philips Design!

  • patrick

    impressivly clean but steril

  • Xit

    I prefer a future with local organic food cooked grandma style in a big iron pot.

    This style driven amalgamation of design trends somehow removes all gustative pleasures by offering us a device that looks more at home in a local Vision express than in a kitchen.

  • I just want to get my hands on that fake pomegranate-y thing. That is a most covetsome object.

  • mikaël

    I love everything about this exept the last line:

    ‘The outcomes of this ‘far-future’ research are used to identify systemic shifts that could affect business in years to come and that could lead to new areas in which to develop intellectual property”

  • Marcus Des

    For the first time in my life I have seen something on Dezeen that completely combines my obsession for food with my craving for sleek design. I haven’t even read the whole explanation, I… just… WANT IT!!!

    I WANT IT!!!

  • Ellen

    Nice idea but it’s not new!
    Created by Adriaan van Moort in 2007 at design academy Eindhoven!

  • Cam

    I think we should all take a step back and acknowledge that this is conceptual design created to inspire thought, and to enrich the talents of those working within the Phillips Design think-tanks.

    Don’t take it so seriously! ;)

  • Japr

    uncle’s opinion is the only one to leave a door open for avoiding thinking this gives the creeps. might me cheaper in “that” future sending thousands of these to starving populations rather than sending them real food. but regarding non starving populations, this is a dramatic view of the future. or maybe this work’s been done far from potential destination: sci-fi. Kubrick would’ve enjoyed it, and Aldous Huxley would’ve probably sued them.
    anyway, if this had been developped in a sci-fi context, everything looks nice and creepy. well done!


    To put it in Bruce Sterling’s terms: less “Gothic High Tech” and more “Favela Chic!”

  • This is a beautiful design and shares much in common with our work the Farm Fountain, which can be see here already functioning:

    In our open source design we also provide a map for others to build one in their home.

  • michaelknight

    This of course can only come from the country with the worst food culture in the world, food wise i had the hardest time of my live in the NL. Things can only get better for the Dutch.

  • matteo

    I LOVE IT!
    But it reminded me this quote:

    "don't eat any food that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"

  • What's next? printed, house?, car?, dog? baby?

    • Bovit


  • Gabriela Castro

    If this is the way we feed ourselves in a few years, I'm scared. Home farming it's ok, but what makes me reject the rest is a question of culture and common sense.