Last month, the “TREE by NAKED, yoyogi park” restaurant opened its doors in the famed Tokyo ward of Shibuya. Perhaps more unique than its name is the progressive, one-of-a-kind experience that it offers: virtual reality dining.
Naked Inc. designed and currently runs the eatery, bringing their impressive portfolio of video installation, projection mapping, and even music videos to bear for diners willing to pay the $135/meal bill. A small and tightly-controlled experience has put “TREE by NAKED” on the map as perhaps the first of its kind to integrate virtual and augmented reality into every aspect of the restaurant experience.
In restaurants worldwide, VR and AR already have numerous applications. That utility nearly always stops at the dining room door. VR headsets are poised to change training for new chefs and decision making on the managerial side. These are effective applications that work to make the current iteration of restaurants better rather than revolutionize. Though innovators have long envisioned virtual integration for the dining experience, “TREE by NAKED” has finally made it happen.
A sensual orchestra involving digital animation projected directly onto plates alongside room-size video installations, light, and fog effects takes diners to a new place. Between courses, guests move between floors of the building where the restaurant is located. While appetizers are enjoyed on the ground floor, dessert takes you up to the second.
Experimental eating experiences are nothing new, with “blind” dinners popping up the world over. Like countless other industries, virtual reality has the capacity to completely redefine the act of sitting down for a meal. The director of Naked Inc., Ryotaro Muramatsu, highlighted interactivity as a key element of “TREE by Naked,” and interactivity is the difference. It’s challenging to find a comparison for when a diner slices his or her entree and ripples fan out through the water shimmering across their plate.
Though the price may be prohibitive for some, it seems like a small sacrifice for a potentially game-changing installation. Breaking ground in this way works to put Naked Inc. on the map and offer a challenge to progressive restaurants around the world. What remains to be seen is what, if any effect this will have on “TREE by NAKED”’s successors.