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  • Writer's pictureJie Li

CakeVR: Co-design Your Dream Cakes with Pastry Chefs

Rarely is there a celebration without a cake. Customized cake services enable clients to collaboratively personalize their cake in shape, color and flavor with pastry chefs. However,

as a pastry chef, I often struggle to illustrate the design, size, and texture of the cake on-the-fly. The customization process is not easy for clients as well, which usually starts in a face-to-face meeting. Most of the follow-up communications are through text messages with the aid of reference cake pictures, which is insufficient for them to fully communicate their creative thoughts and to have a clear image of the final design. Figure 1 illustrates such difficulties. CakeVR is a social VR tool that helps pastry chefs to communicate and co-design cakes with clients.

Figure 1. The difficulties in communicating the decoration and size of a customized cake: (a) design keywords from the clients, (b) a cake reference picture, (c) the final cake design in a 2D photo, and (d) the clients only saw the final cake at the celebration.

Together with my student Yanni Mei (now my colleague :D), we design, implement and evaluate a social VR tool "CakeVR" for pastry chefs to co-design cakes with clients, with the aid of real-time realistic 3D visualizations.

We started with one to one semi-structured interviews with five pastry chefs and four clients who had experiences in customizing cakes. During the interviews, they were asked to describe one to three memorable experiences in customizing cakes. Then, we guided them to talk about the events where the cakes were for, the communication methods, the challenges in communication and the final design outcomes. Based on the interviews, we identified the current communication process of cake customization (Figure 2) and distill the design requirements for CakeVR.

Figure 2. Three phases of current cake customization communication

The list of requirements are presented as follows:

R1: Allow two users represented as avatars, to enter the virtual space, and communicate with audio and gestures.

R2: Allow users to upload, grab and hold 2D reference pictures.

R3: Allow users to sketch in mid-air in the virtual space.

R4: Offer pre-designed cake components (e.g., cream, fruits).

R5: Allow users to see colors, textures, decorations, and real sizes of the co-design outcome in 3D visualizations in real time.

R6: Allow users to use intuitive gestures to interact with the interface (e.g., pointing, clicking) and to manipulate the virtual cake (e.g., resizing the cake, adding decorations).

R7: Allow users to capture photos of the cake in the virtual space.

R8: Assist in documenting the design details of the virtual cake.

Based on the design requirements, we made a storyboard to describe the core functions and user scenarios of CakeVR, from preparation, initial idea discussion, ideation and negotiation to confirmation (Figure 3). The storyboard guided the implementation of CakeVR, which is a medium-fidelity social VR prototype for one client and one pastry chef to co-design a cake in a shared virtual space. Figure 4 illustrates the system overview of CakeVR. The virtual co-design space can switch between a virtual bakery and a celebration location. Two users who are represented as cartoon-like avatars meet at the virtual space wearing head-mounted displays (HMDs). The virtual space has a graphical interface to guide them to build a 3D virtual cake together and visualizes the cake design in real time.

Figure 3. The storyboard of CakeVR, defining the core functions and user scenarios

Figure 4. An overview of the CakeVR system

In the end of this blog post, we provide a video to show the prototype of CakeVR. If you want to learn more details regarding the design process, implementation and expert evaluation, please read our CHI2021 paper, which will be published in May, 2021.

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