We’ve talked about the HAPIfork project during CES 2013, and it seems like it is ready for the next step since its team has started seeking funding through Kickstarter after a rather successful awareness campaign. Hapilabs, the company behind this concept is seeing $100,000 from the public, which represents about 1000 prospect customers for this smart fork. Given that contributions range from $89 (the minimum to receive the product) to $1500, this looks very doable, but this will be the ultimate test which shows if the initial impression can now be converted to real user intent.
If you are not familiar with HAPIfork, it is a fork equipped with a capacitive sensor. It can tell how fast you’re eating since each bite would trigger a contact between your lip skin and the sensor.
Additionally, the final fork design should also be equipped with a motion sensor to augment the bite count accuracy, as the capacitive sensor can be accidentally triggered by a metallic knife for example. By double-checking the fork’s motion and the contact data, Hapilabs should be able to precisely count the number of bites. Once the data is gathered, you can connect the fork to a computer and to Hapilab’s cloud service to check your progress and other statistics about your eating pace.
The basic idea of the fork is that many people eat too fast, which is not really healthy since we’re supposed to chew food properly (long enough) etc… Eating fast is said to have at least a couple of serious downsides: first, some may experience stomach aches because not chewing enough can make digestion more difficult. Secondly, eating fast may lead to eating “too much”, since the body does not have time to release a hormone that basically tells the brain “I’m not hungry anymore”. Here’s an interesting article if you want further details about this.
To notify users that the frequency at which they put food in their mouth is too high, the fork vibrates gently. That’s enough for the user to pay attention and slow down, but the vibration is not strong enough to be actually distracting or annoying.
We’ve tested the fork during a meal, and fast-eater Eliane Fiolet (Ubergizmo’s co-founder) quickly and naturally slowed down her eating pace after being buzzed a few times. All the while, she was discussing normally and ended up not paying attention to the fork beyond the first few bites. It was a bit surprising that she got used to the new pace so quickly.
Now, the question is whether or not people go beyond liking “the idea” and want to put down some money for it. Design-wise, and since this is the first of its kind, the electronics is still relatively big – that’s why the fork is a little thick and may look like kid’s fork. The good news is that Hapilabs will be able to steadily refine the design and one day, smart forks could be indistinguishable from their regular counterparts.
What’s your take? Would you fund this project?