Remember? Back in January, it was one of the more notable — and offbeat — products to be introduced at CES 2013. The little vibrating fork, which aimed to help you control your eating by measuring the time between bites, ended up on a lot of TV shows and news blurbs. But where did it go? At last, as 2013 comes to a close, we have one here at CNET to try out.
Hapifork, which launched on Kickstarter earlier this year and now is available exclusively at Brookstone, is, well…a vibrating Bluetooth fork. And it’s an expensive one at that: $99.99. The device pairs with an Android or iOS device to send feedback, can be USB synced to a PC or Mac, and has a built-in accelerometer to track hand motion. In one of two modes — Alarm, or Coaching — it issues vibrational feedback and a glowing red or green light at the end of its handle to tell you whether you timed your bites properly.
What does “time your bites” mean? Basically, it means waiting 10 seconds between bites. The Hapifork counts, and measures a hand motion registering a bite: the moment food enters your mouth and completes a circuit with the fork’s metal tines, a bite is measured. If you waited the full 10 seconds, there’s no vibration. If you didn’t, you get buzzed. Ideally, the Hapifork system works best with a phone next to your plate: you can watch the app time your bites and give you encouragements when you make a perfectly timed bite. This made me feel somewhat ridiculous.
A built-in battery and circuitry charges via Micro-USB: oddly, you initialize Hapifork by plugging it into a PC. Once I got over my “I’m plugging a fork into my computer via USB” reactions, I settled down and installed an app on my iPhone 5S called HapiFork Lite.
Oh, just connecting a fork to my computer via USB, no big deal pic.twitter.com/2mmKJHpGY6
— Scott Stein (@jetscott) December 9, 2013
Hapifork has two apps right now: a bare-bones fork-tracking app, and a full “Hapi Labs” app that sucks in other fitness gadget app data like the Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and Bluetooth smart scales like the ones Withings makes. The Hapifork data can’t be used on Fitbit, Withings or Jawbone apps, however; this is a one-way street. Hapi Labs is an odd app, encouraging me to complete my day by being active, eating well, and recording several “happy moments” via tagged photos. It’s a little too much Quantified Self for my tastes.
Using the Hapifork is…well, a mixed bag. You have to execute very specific hand motions: the instructions recommend a downward fork-pierce and an arm lift so that your wrist elevates enough to register the motion. If you scoop your food with your fork, like I often do, the bites don’t register. As a result, a good chunk of my salad-eating seemed to go unnoticed by Hapifork. Also, the Hapifork doesn’t seem to care what food you put in your mouth: I could be eating a forkful of broccoli or roast pork belly, and as long as I time my bites nicely Hapifork would be happy. In all fairness, the point of Hapifork is more about discovering slow eating, and the somewhat embryonic app and Web ecosystem does allow for food tracking, but Hapifork is generally not as smart a smart fork as you might think.
The internal electronics of Hapifork can be removed; the outer fork sheath is dishwasher-safe. It comes with a plastic carrying case, too. Still, Hapifork is one gigantic fork, and I’m not sure who would carry around a dedicated fork just to track their bites. You’re not meant to immerse Hapifork otherwise, beyond the fork’s metal base. That would rule out deep, saucy dishes. Soup, of course, would be beyond Hapifork’s jurisdiction. Hapispoon, where are you?
Hapifork is a classic New Year’s resolution gadget, a “help-me-get-healthy” novelty if there ever was one. It demonstrates how motion control and feedback can be used for more than just counting steps (although this type of motion tracking could be done with a wearable wristband, too, theoretically).
One session with Hapifork is probably enough for me. In the future, I could…well, just count to 10 between bites.