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CES 2013: 'Smart' forks and spoons aimed at curbing weight gain

By Tiffany Hsu

7:10 AM PST, January 7, 2013

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That’s not Mom nagging you to quit scarfing your meal so fast. It’s your fork.

Specifically, a “smart electronic” Hapifork, designed to vibrate in diners’ hands when they chow too quickly. Florida-based creator Hapilabs has also made a similar spoon.

Revealed at the CES showcase event “Unveiled” on Sunday, the tech-filled set of utensils are fitted with sensors that track how often they’re placed inside someone’s mouth.

Too many lip trips in too short a time span -- say, three in a single minute -- causes the handle of the fork or spoon to gently pulsate. Users can program the devices to buzz at a personalized pace.

“You can be told to eat slowly but you usually forget,” said inventor Jacques Lepine. “This way, your mind doesn’t have to do the work.”

FULL COVERAGE: CES 2013

The impetus for his aluminum-and-plastic creation: recent research suggesting that speedy eating can lead to weight gain, digestive troubles and other health problems.

Lepine said he has personally struggled to take his time at the table, leading to severe heartburn that once so resembled a heart attack that it landed him in the hospital.

Since then, the engineer -- who has worked on elevator mechanics and other gizmos -- has spent some seven years trying to turn meals into a less frenetic experience.

Data from Hapifork can be transferred to a Web-based dashboard or mobile device displaying long-term progress. Traceable information includes a timeline of all meals and the number and duration of fork “servings.”

The forks and spoons, which are being aimed for retail sale in April, are expected to cost roughly $99 each and will come in different colors. Lepine says he’s still trying to figure out how to apply his concept to chopsticks.

Meanwhile, Hapilabs has some other gadgets heading down the pipeline, including a watch that will boost relaxation in wearers and a toothbrush that records the length of a brushing session.

“People have to take control of their health,” said Hapilabs Chief Executive Fabrice Boutain, a gluten-intolerant former pole-vaulter. “If you don’t do it, no one else will.”

Other companies at “Unveiled” also preached the virtues of tech-aided health. Paris-based  Withings showed off its $149 Smart Body Analyzer, a scale that not only measures weight but also body mass index, body fat, heart rate and indoor air quality.

The product, set to launch in late March, recognizes users by their weight and can send updates to tablets and smartphones.

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