'Smart Fork' introduced at Consumer Electronics Show
The Kansas City Star
We have seen the future, and for some reason it is a fork.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full swing this week in Las Vegas: a sort of debutante’s ball for gadgets and gizmos and things that require nine batteries and break down first time you use them. All the big players are there: the TV people in particular are out in force demonstrating their allegiance to the old adage: when it doubt, make it bigger. But the mainstay of the show is and always has been the small players, the startups, the wild-eyed dreamers who just happened to have found the cure for the world’s ills in handy gadget form. It’s these that give the show character, and keep the place from looking like just another big box store spread out over several acres.
Take this year. Easily the most blogged/tweeted/gawked-at product comes from a small newcomer firm calling itself “HAPILabs”. These benefactors of mankind, whose stated purpose in life is “helping individuals in the 21st century take control of their HAPIness” (yes, “HAPIness”. One can only assume that actual happiness has been trademarked by Disney or something), are demonstrating the HAPIfork. This particular boon to humanity consists of a fork with motion sensors and timers to monitor the number of forkloads you take in a given meal and how much time passes between each. This data can then be uploaded to their website, where cheerful graphs will show you how fast you were eating, and just how much you’re putting away. Leaving aside the training potential for the competitive eating crowd, the idea seems to be trying to help people to slow down and chew their food.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the idea has drawn its share of derision; yours truly has seen it branded “useless”, “enough to take my appetite away”, the “ultimate first-world solution”, among other accolades. And in fairness, I can see where they’re coming from. Leaving aside the fact that having a utensil monitor and upload your eating habits is perhaps just a teensy bit disturbing, there is something rather galling about the idea of having an electric fork when other people in the world are barely able to scrounge any food at all.
Still, it’s not all bad. In fact, if anything I think they’ve not taken it far enough. I mean, what’s the point of charging an ungodly amount ($99 is what we’re hearing at the moment) for a smart fork if all it does is buzz at you for eating too fast? No, they’re not exploring the full potential of cyber-aware cutlery. In the interests of scientific progress, therefore, I have taken the liberty of coming up with a few additional features they might wish to incorporate into the next version:
- An eject button. Should go without saying, really. Give it enough torque and you could be the undisputed master at any food fight.
- Chemical analysis sensors in the tines could perform a rapid breakdown of the food being eaten, tracking nutritional content in real time. This would not only be a boon to dieters, but combined with the eject function could result in the first utensil to actively refuse to let you have dessert until you’ve eaten your greens.
- A temperature sensor could easily be embedded as well, along with a miniature fan, allowing the fork to auto-detect excessively hot food and blow on it for you.
- Advertising. If I know marketing people like I think I do, they’ll be all over this golden opportunity. Just imagine taking a forkload of a big, thick, juicy steak, and your fork mentioning how much better it with be with oh, say, a dollop of A-1. It may take some getting used to but by gum, we’ve got advertising everywhere else now, haven’t we? It’s time our silverware got with the program.
Clearly, the potential is limitless.
So this is it. This is the golden future our ancestors looked toward with hopeful eyes. Welcome to the twenty-first century: we don’t have flying cars, we don’t have vacations on the moon. Cures for world hunger and disease are still as far away as ever. But by golly, we’ve got the smartest forks this side of creation. And so we march, heads held high, into a brand new dawn filled with, if not actual happiness, then at least HAPIness.
And the way things are going, that’s as close as we’re likely to get.