- Dr. Rohit Ashok Khot, School of Design, RMIT University
- Lois Yi, School of Design, RMIT University
- Prof. Florian Mueller, Exertion Games Lab, RMIT University
SWAN is the world’s first augmented spoon that encourages people to pay more attention to their food and eat mindfully. SWAN keeps track of an individual’s gaze during mealtime and makes three moves based on how much attention is given to the food. The first move is “Redirect” that draws diners’ attention towards food through rapid movements; the second is “Drop”, a motion that drops food from the spoon and the third is “Refuse” where SWAN leans back and refuses to pick up the food. Through three moves, SWAN offers playful ways in which mindfulness can be guided during mealtime.
This project addresses increasing tensions between the lucrative appeal of screen-based media and ideologies of mindfulness. Today, few can enjoy our meal without having our eyes glued to some form of screen-based entertainment. This behavior is detrimental to wellbeing as it interrupts the physiological signals of satiety and hunger, leading to problems such as overeating, obesity and heart disease. SWAN is a provocative solution that acknowledges the pervasive presence of screen-based media rather than denying it. It guides people’s attention and redirects focus on the act of eating, prompting mindfulness in their eating behavior.
Modern society is inundated with dietary-related diseases and disorders, which could largely be attributed to the possible disconnection between individuals and their awareness of food and their eating habits. This is particularly significant given the rapid loss of social norms related to communal eating, the rise in lone-person households, the increased portability, and accessibility of screen-based media and the changes in the ways that Australians use their leisure time. Helping people to eat mindfully can nurture a strong, healthy connection to their relationship with food. SWAN is a promising step towards this direction.
The design of SWAN is grounded in years of research in food psychology and sociology. Research highlights that food-related decisions are made instantaneously and are affected by the social and emotional context and surroundings. By playfully changing the way in which people understand their eating habits and its consequence, SWAN facilitates change in those momentary decisions. Such continuous and real-time exposure to triggering cues of eating behaviors can help to gradually eliminate unhealthy eating activities.
The majority of approaches to promote mindful eating has been educational; designed to mitigate serious eating disorders. These solutions are not suitable for everyday eating practices as they are time-consuming and demanding. Additionally, these interventions usually occur before or after a meal, thus denying participants the opportunity to understand their eating practice in real-time. SWAN playfully addresses this issue by creating synergies of attention between “what we watch” with “how we eat” without compromising the pleasure of screen-based media.
SWAN is playfully provocative and contextually appropriate. Instead of denying the presence of media during eating, it reconfigures and repurposes their use towards instilling mindfulness in eating.
The software interface of SWAN is built using state of the art machine learning algorithms while the hardware part uses food-grade material in its composition.
SWAN is comfortable to grip, and its structure is as similar as possible to standard spoons with regard to its physical dimensions (weight, handle length and width, handle texture) so as to ensure ecological and social validity. SWAN is easy to clean and works with different size spoons and can also be reconfigured as a fork.
The spoon does not have any loud vibrating or auditory component that interferes with the natural course of the meal. Although it makes movements, these “nudges” are subtle and do not appear as patronizing.
SWAN is wireless and battery-operated. All electronics components are covered, preventing any direct contact between the electronic parts and food.