Hands on with the HAPIfork

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As tech writers, we get our fair share of devices and gadgets to play with: Smart pedometers, smart watches, even smart cars—but HAPIlabs is the first company to bring us a smart fork. Yes, you read that right: The current upswing of technology has extended to cutlery with the HAPIfork, a connected fork designed to monitor how fast you’re eating and encourage you to eat mindfully.

We first saw the HAPIfork when it was unveiled back in January at CES 2013, where it garnered quite a bit of attention from everyone from Good Morning America and the Wall Street Journal to Rolling Stone and the Colbert Report. However, we didn't get a chance to actually eat with it until last week.

The HAPIfork comes in blue, green, and pink with a color-coordinated case, and weighs 65 grams. The fork’s dimensions are 7.87 inches long by 1 inch wide by 2/3rds of an inch high. It feels a bit like a child’s utensil, in that it’s thicker than standard forks, but it’s fairly lightweight. The rubber buttons on the end turn the fork on or off and it’s completely washable once detached from the internal components; it’s also Bluetooth 4.0/LTE enabled so it can stream data in real time to your smartphone, and has a micro USB connector so you can upload data on your eating habits to the HAPILabs online dashboard.

Its aim is to bring awareness to your eating habits. Specifically, the HAPIfork will alert you to how fast you’re eating by giving off a gentle vibration alert when you’re chowing down too quickly. HAPIfork inventor Jacques Lepine based the idea for the HAPI fork on research that shows slower eating can improve digestion, aid in weight loss, and improve how users feel. The founders of HAPIfork say they hope it will be useful for those struggling with diabetes or chronic digestive issues.

The tech inside the HAPIfork

TechHive Executive Editor Jason Cross and I recently got some hands on time with these high-tech tines. The fork itself feels a bit thick, but is lightweight and easy to hold. Eating with the HAPIfork made for an interesting meal —I was generally unaware of it being at all different from a standard fork until it buzzed. The buzz was not at all unpleasant, but did feel a bit odd. I intuitively wanted to keep the fork from making the vibration alert, so it works right off the bat to modify and correct eating behavior.

Within a few forkfuls, I was carefully lifting the fork in order to eat correctly (and avoid the vibration). It became a bit of a game to see what actions and behaviors would and would not produce the vibration alert. I was unusually aware of the speed with which I was eating; in these regards the HAPIfork was already working.

The HAPILabs online dashboard

It’s worth noting that you will have to remember to carry the fork with you, and not leave it accidentally on a plate (although its unusual size and shape means the wait staff will surely notice). Also, the HAPIfork doesn’t measure any other metrics like calorie intake, or nutritional content; it’s solely focused on the time you eat, the duration, how many fork servings you consume and the pace. We'll see if the HAPIfork gains enough users to make smart eating the next high-tech frontier.

While the HAPIfork itself is still a prototype, HAPILabs recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign in order to increase interest and connect with early adapters who might want the opportunity to participate in beta testing the product (with a pledge of $300 or more—the beta program should be set up soon, HAPILabs expects to ship in July 2013). The first 2,500 customers on the Kickstarter campaign will be able to purchase the HAPIfork for $89 (as opposed to the standard price of $99), and the campaign runs until May 31st.

Updated 04/25: Added video

This story, "Hands on with the HAPIfork" was originally published by TechHive.

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