Food scanning platform for individuals with dietary restrictions.
FoodSafe is a scanner designed for individuals with dietary restrictions. Food today isn’t prepared the way it used to be. Ingredients from all over the world are brought into our daily lives and unfortunately, poses a great risk for those who have allergies or dietary restrictions.
If you have common food allergies such as wheat and dairy or are following other dietary restrictions such as vegetarianism or popular eating plans such as the Paleo Diet, then eating out isn’t always easy. This becomes even more problematic when you travel to foreign countries that speak a different language. It becomes difficult to communicate with restaurants and street food vendors about your food allergies and dietary restrictions. In those situations, you depend on others to understand where the food comes from and how it is prepared and in worst case scenarios, you would also rely on strangers for immediate care.
Tools: Sketch, Processing, Arduino, Adobe Illustrator, Keynote, Principle
Key Skills: User Research, System Design, Animation, Prototyping, Visual Design Team members: Self
Focus Area: Connected Device, Product Design
Duration: 1 Week
Advisor: Christopher Risdon
Methods used: Desktop Research, Shadowing and User Interviews. Working towards understanding the user and validating my assumptions, I spoke first hand to individuals with food allergies and dietary restrictions and they said the following
1. Individuals with dietary restrictions spend a lot of time researching the ingredients in their food and are always looking for quick ways to speed up their search.
3. People who have been following dietary restrictions for a long-time desire new food, but are cautious of trying anything new.
2. In a foreign situation, the communication barrier is big hindrance that keeps individuals away from trying new food items, which then hampers their travel experience.
4. Allergies are often hidden. People preparing food are usually unaware of hidden allergens that often cross contaminate food.
How might we... expedite the ingredient search process that is consistent with the individual’s dietary preferences and gives the user more autonomy
People who have food allergies & dietary restrictions need to know if the food they are consuming is safe to eat or not. FoodSafe provides information related to user's dietary preferences in a unknown situation where it is not readily available by-
Identifying Allergens in the food
Finding the Nutritional make-up of the food
Tracking the user's food consumption data through a set period of time
Steps of Use
Mobile App : Features
1. Signing Up & Selecting dietary preferences
User can easily signup and select the foods they want to avoid from the list of items.This list can also be accessed later and edited any time depending on user’s preferences. It will be located inside the global menu icon in the top right corner of the screen.
2. Installing and using the device
The users will be instructed on how to install the device on the phone and scan the food items. This will be done using easy to follow motion graphics and instructions on the screen. Instructions for how to install the device and scan the food will be broken down step by step
3. Scanning and Viewing Results
Once the device scans the food, the results will be displayed instantly.User will be shown whether the food that has been scanned is safe to eat or not.Tapping on view more will show results that details the list of ingredients
To understand the FoodSafe system better, I fleshed out the solution in the form of a story board.
Due to my background in industrial design I love to be hands on with the material. In order to find the right form factor for the device, I created lots of models in foam core and sketched multiple ideas. Afterwards, I made prototype in MDF board and final product was 3D printed.
Once the final form was decided, I painted the model, laser cut acrylic sheets into pieces, and glued them onto the model to add details.
Technology: How will it work ?
The system consists of three parts: food sensor, a cloud-based analysis engine and a mobile app that work together to scan foods. These together identify ingredients and allergens in the food.
The system uses Near infrared spectroscopy. Chemicals and ingredients in the foods reflect different wavelengths of lights. The scanner detects these variations and identifies the different ingredients present in the food.
The scanner is a spectrometer that reflects light at food and then counts the photons that are reflected back to it. Using this information, a simple graph is created called a spectrograph. It is unique to each food just like a human fingerprint. Then this information is transmitted from the scanner to the smartphone.
The smartphone uses GSM or Wifi to send this data to the cloud, that uses algorithms to analyze and understand what is there inside the food. The output of the analysis is sent back to the smartphone and displayed in an easy to understand format on the mobile application.
To recreate an actual working mechanism, I made a wizard-of-Oz prototype by connecting color sensor with Processing to imitate a spectrometer and a display module.The red card represented unsafe food and the blue represented food that was safe to eat. When the color sensor scanned these cards, the respective messages were displayed onto the laptop screen.
After I had designed the first round of prototype, I conducted in-person user testing. In total, I spoke to seven different people, including four people who has severe food allergies. The main objective was to understand ease of use and comprehension of the whole system.
After gathering feedback and synthesizing the data, I was able to come up with four insights:
Scan Results Visual Design: A couple of user's associated emoji’s blush to the facial hives that they would get after an allergic reaction.
Acceptance and Interest: Users who had dietary restrictions responded positively to Foodsafe as a concept and expressed the desire to have access to a similar system.
Need for More Information: The earlier version of the concept did not show the final scan result in detail. Users wanted more information about the ingredients, as most of them were knowledgeable about scientific names of the allergens
Confusion with how to use the device: The earlier version utilized mostly text as a form of communication. Users indicated that they had difficulty going through so much text and requested for a simpler and easier way to understand the information
This was a fun project for me where I could utilize my background in Industrial design and get over my fear of electronics. It was a complete project where I could add that X to ID and design the overall experience.
Testing the concept helped me get over my personal bias. Being a vegetarian, I have been in a similar problem space and speaking to other people with dietary restrictions helped validate my hunches.