With schools back in session following Labor Day, parents are packing brown bag lunches for their kids with the genuine hope that they will not trade their apples and carrot sticks for Chocodiles and gravy-flavored potato chips. But what happens in the cafeteria stays in the cafeteria, so if parents want to make sure their kids are eating something healthy, they’ll have to do it at home. And a group of designers from Argentina think they know the secret to getting children to actually eat a well-balanced meal: tie eating to video games.
Yumit is a futuristic-looking place setting with an internal Bluetooth-connected scale. The tray measures how much someone eats and how long it takes them to eat it. That information then gets sent to an app, which converts the healthy calories consumed into points for virtual gaming upgrades. So kids will connect eating a plate full of roasted beets with an extra life in their favorite video game. The set also tracks eating progress via a set of LED lights around the plate that change colors as the food disappears so kids can follow how many points they’re earning in real time.
Conflating the benefits of fiber with the pleasure gained through fiber optic cables might seem like a cynical move to some, but it’s really just a recognition of what kids today are actually spending their energy on. Surveys over the last several years found that over 90 percent of children play video games, so virtual worlds are among the best places to actually reach them.
For now, Yumit is creating its own games to which kids can apply the points they earn from healthy eating, but the creators hope to link up with other game designers. If it works, kids may be begging for more broccoli, if for no other reason than it will help them get past that impossible-to-beat level in Angry Birds 2.