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CA$ 1,626
pledged of CA$ 25,000pledged of CA$ 25,000 goal
14
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Wed, April 16 2014 6:18 PM UTC +00:00
Last updated April 16, 2014

SmartFork: Eating 2.0

Introducing the SmartFork - the utensil that does the calorie counting for you - all you have to do is eat!

SmartFork: Eating 2.0

Introducing the SmartFork - the utensil that does the calorie counting for you - all you have to do is eat!

CA$ 1,626
pledged of CA$ 25,000pledged of CA$ 25,000 goal
14
backers
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Wed, April 16 2014 6:18 PM UTC +00:00
Last updated April 16, 2014

About

Eating, 2.0

The caloric content of the food we eat is primarily determined by its macronutrient makeup. The principle macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Once you know the weight of a particular food, and its macro makeup, you can calculate how many calories the food contains.

In theory, this is straightforward. In practice, it is complicated by the realities of modern life: much of the food we eat is prepared by others. This means we often don't know the macro content of food, and even when we have nutritional labels to guide us, regulations allow for a 20% margin of error in the numbers.

The SmartFork was created to solve this problem - to enable people to determine the calories in any food, any time, without having to know details about how the food was prepared. 

The SmartFork grew out of a series of experiments in measuring the bio-impedance of food. The initial focus was on "pure" foods - foods that consist primarily of fat, carbohydrate, or protein. Above, you can see carbohydrates (an orange) being tested; below, it is fat (olive oil).

We found that protein, fats, and carbohydrates reacted differently under specific types of electrical stimuli. With a bit of clever math, we could actually differentiate between one macro and another! 

From there, the idea for the SmartFork and the SmartSpoon began to take shape.

The first prototype was a silicone cooking spoon with sensor wires drilled directly through the base material, as shown above. The sensing and calculating were performed by an embedded processor development board (the red device in the picture above), readily available from Texas Instruments . 

Signalling and processing was also performed by the development board. The USB connection to the laptop was strictly for debugging and transferring programs to the development board.

From this point, it was a straight forward matter to develop algorithms to differentiate between the basic macros (carbohydrates, fats, proteins).

To move forward, to differentiate between ratios of macros in mixed foods, we needed more computing power . And if SmartFork was to become a real product, the computing power would somehow have to fit inside the handle of an eating utensil.

Enter NXP and their super-compact ARM processor.

With this processor, we were able to constructe elaborate algorithms that could determine the fat, protein, and carbohydrate content in foods that contained any combination of these macros. 

This meant that we could accurately determine the caloric content of each mouthful of food based on weight and relative proportions of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. 

And it also meant we could put together the first functional prototype.

The ARM-based electronics were now completely enclosed inside the utensil handle, with only a USB tail needed for power and serial logging back to a desktop computer. The screen captures below (also part of the video) show the logging of the serial port when the prototype is in debug mode - the utensil cycles in a "home" state until it detects something has been placed on bowl/tines, and then initiates a series of short electrical tests to determine the macro-nutritional content.

The signalling and calculating processes involved are highly proprietary and, unfortunately, we cannot divulge the details until the patents have been granted. But we can show you the most recent SmartFork and SmartSpoon prototypes!

These prototypes show the sensor tips built into the fork tines and spoon base - there are no more wires, the leads are integrated into the metal connecting the business end of the utensil with the main body. This required applying a non-conductive coating to the traditional stainless steel tines/bowl, a process we developed with the help of a local manufacturing partner.

Over the next several weeks, a PCB board shrink based on the mbed LPC1768 will be completed, allowing us to reduce the volume of the current prototype handle by nearly 90%, to the traditional dimensions shown in the photo above. This is a low risk activity, as there are minimal changes to the original well-tested schematics. When this step is completed, our entire electronics package will fit right inside those svelte red handles!

A bit of work remains to be done. For example, we are currently integrating a more sophisticated sensor package into the utensils. 

With a full complement of sensors, the SmartFork and SmartSpoon will be able to track the motion of the utensil, to determine whether and when the food on the utensil is eaten and improve the accuracy of nutrient and calorie tracking.

Of course, capturing data is only the first step in the process. To make the data available to the user, the SmartFork pairs with your Android phone or iPhone via BlueTooth. An app on the phone collects and manages the data stream from the utensil. 

In addition to tracking the raw numbers, the app can automatically log into your calorie tracking service and update your records as appropriate. This is currently supported for MyFitnessPal.com, with other services planned for later this year.

And there you have it! With a SmartFork or SmartSpoon, you can take the guesswork out of calorie tracking.

All you have to do it is pick up your SmartFork....and eat!

Risks and challenges

In their current state, the SmartFork and SmartSpoon are able to differentiate between proteins, fats and carbohydrates to a high degree of accuracy. They are, in fact, more accurate than the typical food label. The algorithms to do this have been developed and tested, and we have confirmed that the processing platform has the computing horsepower to execute the algorithms.

The principle remaining challenge is around manufacturability. As seen in the video and photos above, we have a functional prototype "spoon" that combines a silicon eating end with a tubular metal body. This is working quite well, however the overall utensil is currently too large. This is primarily driven by the width of the prototype board, and the fact that for development ease we are using prototype headers as interconnect.

We have subsequently designed an all-metal prototype body, which is also shown in the video and photos above. In conjunction, we have also performed a design shrink on the mbed LPC1768 board. By removing the unnecessary USB functionality and streamlining the wiring, we were able to reduce the board width by approximately 60% and the height/depth by 75%. It now fits inside the red handled utensils shown above.

With that validated, the next step will be to ensure the new package is a stable compartment that allows for reasonable BlueTooth range and absolute watertightness.

Basically, we are stuffing a fork handle full of electronics, without taking away the ability to toss it into a dishwasher with all your other utensils. While we expect most people will treat the SmartFork with reasonable care, it is important that the utensils can in fact survive vigorous daily use.

Fortunately, through our professional experience we have a large network of local experts in both custom-milled metalwork and injection-molded plastics. We also have access to high-end 3D printers, which allow us to rapidly cycle prototype designs and minimize the risk of flaws in the first production run.

We are also currently working with a highly experienced electronics design contractor to create an improved form factor for the sensor package being added to the utensil.

If demand for the SmartFork and SmartSpoon exceeds our expectations, we are well connected with volume manufacturers both domestic and abroad. With very heavy demand, we may have to postpone the expected delivery date by a few weeks, but we will be able to handle virtually any quantity being demanded.

The estimated development schedule is as follows:

Phase 1: Functioning prototype (completed January 2014)
Phase 2: Integration of augmented sensor package (ongoing through March 2014)
Phase 3: First pre-production prototype (completed)
Phase 4: Second pre-production prototype (May 2014)
Phase 5: First manufacturing run and initial deliveries (July/August 2014)

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 10 or more About $8

    A delightful, colourful keychain fob with the SmartFork graphic design.

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    Pledge CA$ 25 or more About $19

    Supporters at this level receive not only the keychain fob, but also a t-shirt with the SmartFork graphic design.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 99 or more About $75

    Supporters at the $99 level receive all the above awards, as well as Version 1.0 of the actual SmartFork or SmartSpoon (supporter's choice) several months before full retail release. The iPhone/Android app will be made available as a free download from the appropriate App Store.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 149 or more About $112

    Supporters at the $149 level receive all the above awards, as well as Version 1.0 of the both the actual SmartFork and SmartSpoon several months before full retail release. The iPhone/Android app will be made available as a free download from the appropriate App Store.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 199 or more About $150

    At this premium level, supporters receive not only all the above items, but also a prototype version of the SmartBowl, the biggest advance in dishware since the opening of the Wedgewood factory. Like our smart utensils, this smart plateware allows for tracking of weight and macronutrient content of any food placed in it.

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Funding period

- (30 days)