HAPIfork at the Consumer Electronics Show – A Technological Approach to Mindful Eating
The giant Consumer Electronics Show, held each January in Las Vegas, had a variety of devices relevant to diabetes and obesity this year. Media buzz surrounded the HAPIfork, which is designed to help users slow down their eating. We had an opportunity to speak with Jacques Lépine, the HAPIfork engineer, and Jean Baptiste Schmauch about their unique utensil. The rationale behind the HAPIfork is that people normally feel full 20 minutes into a meal, and eating slower helps create greater awareness, and ultimately, leads to eating less food. Indeed, there is evidence linking the rate at which people eat to their overall metabolism, and potentially, their risks for type 2 diabetes (for more information, those interested can read the research posted here). Mr. Lépine explained to us that because the fork does not dictate limits on eating, it would not cause a person to feel hungry after meals, which often occurs with calorie restriction.
We think HAPIfork’s simple design and technology represent a novel way to discourage overeating. Rather than relying on motion sensors, the fork measures the number of times contact is made with an individual’s mouth (the specifics: it uses a sensitive electrical circuit that is completed only when the fork is in your mouth). The device has a green light to indicate you are eating at a good rate, and the pre-programmed rate is 10 seconds between each “forkful.” Eating too quickly turns the light red, accompanied by a gentle vibration to alert the user to slow down. The fork also saves data during the meal, including when it occurred, the length of the meal, and the time interval between each forkful. We like that the HAPIfork will be Bluetooth-connected, meaning it can upload information to a smartphone application and an online tracker. It can also be linked to a scale, meaning weight loss data could be combined with behavioral changes in eating habits. We are eager to see studies on HAPIfork or at least to hear about whether it helps people in the “real world” lose weight – its success will depend on that and we haven’t seen enough data yet. Said one of our correspondents: “What makes you think a vibrating fork will cause people to lose weight? I don’t think it will.” We actually love the idea and from our view, it’s all about whether it will help people change unhealthy habits (in this case, of eating too quickly). We shall see; it does sound easy to use as the fork is water resistant and can be washed under a faucet, and it can go in a dishwasher as long as the electronic-key is removed. The HAPIfork will be available through crowd funding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo in March for $99. You can read more about the HAPIfork on their website. –AA/MN/AB