Spekkl: Food Safety, Revealed.

Core Concept

Our project addresses the themes of trust, information credibility and the relationship between fads and crises. We are using food safety and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as target issues because the information surrounding them is notoriously hyperbolic and their proponents are stereotypically ill-informed or easily persuaded.

We are creating a pseudo-scientific food safety product, Spekkl, that targets overtly health-conscious parents—mommies and daddies actively anti-GMO blogging and shopping. The caregiving and protective nature of these parents makes them an especially susceptible audience within the realm of food safety.

Related Work

Works of satire and designed hoaxes were influential to the way we approached our project.

Carrot Dan Angelucci

Audio Tooth Implant Auger

Bhopal Disaster The Yes Men

Food Babe

The Onion

Design Process

Finding a topic: Our team was interested in food because it is a necessity to life, and therefore can ignite highly controversial futures. We began to look at large, evil food manufacturers like Monsanto and the anti-GMO movement as starting points for areas of conflict.

Deciding an angle: We chose to, rather than pick a side of the GMO issue, use the topic as a method of critiquing the naivety of those that buy/write/discuss in reaction to it. We decided on a near-future scenario that would bring the issues of credibility and trust to a more believable, and possibly shocking, reality.

Creating a product and brand: We used our strengths as industrial and communication designers to build believable prototypes, renders and online content for the fake product. We believed these elements to be essential to creating a convincing project. The product’s form was inspired by products that are similarly trusted by our audience: baby thermometers and infrared meat thermometers. The brand materials such as logo, color and pattern were created to be friendly and relate to our key audience of parents.

render1render3render2render4

Developing brand language and communications: Online content and our audience-reaching methods of website and marketing e-mails relied on fine-tuned language that delivered approachable authority. Again, realness was key. Our email marketing was sent to the food safety and wellness blogosphere, complete with a thank you coupon and link to the official product press release on the product website.

Response: An important part of the project is witnessing and recording how participants react to the fake product. We will send the email to our blogger list in the coming days and wait to see what their response is. We will be keeping track of pre-orders on the Spekkl website to understand the number of people who seem to believe and want to own the product.

Reflection

Throughout the project we have more clearly come to understand that it’s too easy to make fake things. We haven’t confirmed that people will believe our product, but the process to make a pretty convincing, bogus product was fast and simple. We used free or cheap online services to build a functioning website and marketing email. This makes us question the responsibility held by designers and the power we put in their hands. Do we feel evil? Not really, but we’re a little scared by potential susceptibility of our audience.

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Spekkl

Our project addresses the themes of trust, information credibility and the relationship between fads and crises. We are using food safety and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as target issues because the information surrounding them is notoriously hyperbolic and their proponents are stereotypically ill-informed or easily persuaded.

We are creating a pseudo-scientific food safety product, Spekkl, that targets overtly health-conscious parents—mommies and daddies actively anti-GMO blogging and shopping. The caregiving and protective nature of these parents makes them an especially susceptible audience within the realm of food safety.

spekkl_logo

Spekkl is a small, handheld device that claims to detect GMO contamination, pesticides, herbicides, irradiation and freshness in any food or drink item using infrared spectroscopic scanning.

ds002 copy

Spekkl allows us to create a performative fiction that takes place online via the Spekkl website and dedicated email. We have accumulated contact information for over 65 blogs and Facebook groups in the topics of food safety / parenting / health. We will send a Spekkl press release to this list in hopes that the bloggers will publish our content and market the product:

Spekkl Begins Pre-Orders for Spekkl Food Safety Tool

April 13, 2015 (Pittsburgh, PA) – Beginning April 13, Spekkl is offering pre-orders for Spekkl, the on-the-go well-being and food safety tool. Spekkl is a small, handheld device that detects genetically modified organism (GMO) contamination, pesticides, herbicides, irradiation and freshness in any food or drink item. The device leverages infrared spectroscopic technology to read and interpret the chemical makeup of food in the grocery store or at home, empowering the everyday consumer to know exactly what they purchase and eat.

Spekkl will be available for pre-order at spekkl.com and will retail for $69.99. Pre-order submission will act as a waitlist with no purchase necessary. A limited supply will be available for purchase beginning June 1 and orders will begin shipping around July 1.

Spekkl was developed by a team of engineers and industrial designers to be practical, powerful and beautiful. Spekkl features a 1.5 x 2.2 inches (38.1mm x 56mm) 256-color transflective TFT display and simple three-button control. At 7.5 oz. (213 g) and 2.4W x 6.1H x 1.3D inches (61mm x 155mm x 33mm), Spekkl fits easily into a purse or bag. Spekkl is powered with two “AA” batteries (not included). An adjustable, detachable wrist strap and information guide to the measured food safety levels are included with Spekkl.

About Spekkl

Spekkl is a health technology startup based in Pittsburgh, PA, founded in September 2012. The Spekkl team began within the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation at Carnegie Mellon and is made up of two chemical engineers and two industrial designers. In a world of false advertising, buzzwords and sensationalized labeling, Spekkl aims to make accurate food knowledge accessible to each and every person.

The website will feature renderings of and information about the product, why you should use it, and a form to pre-order (with no purchase necessary). We will measure the success of this project based on the number of pre-orders we receive, signaling belief and desire for the product.

Towards the end of the project we will send reply emails to individuals who placed pre-orders, describing the nature of the project and that the product is not real.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.09.25 PMWe will present our project as the physical product and branded website, along with the email conversations we have with potential consumers and their reactions to the project.

The Effects of Food Homogenization

presentwheel

futurewheel

Currently, food homogenization is a common problem . Certain plants are bred to grow faster and to grow more, causing a decrease in nutrients in the soil and a strong dependency on certain crops. Livestock is bred in close quarters, and swine flu, bird flu, mad cow’s disease, seems to pop up in the media regularly causing spurts of public outcry. What happens if the world is so affected by homogenization that all animals are sick and inedible? How do humans adapt to this, and where are they willing to go in order to have a sufficient source of protein?

Assignment 2 – open source everything – Rachel

When looking toward the future of technology, it is often easy to project a distopian image. Especially when considering the future of security and transparency in the context of recent events. In response to Julian and Danja’s talk and workshop in command line hacking, I decided to take an optimistic view. I explored what technology might look like if consumers began demanding open source products and DIY/maker culture became the norm. What would black-boxing companies like Apple look like if they embraced this trend? What kind of products would they sell, how would they market them and to whom? I created a fictional microprocessor box for such a future. Along with a screen ad. In this particular projection, Apple has partnered with Arduino to better serve the open source maker community with quality parts. This is the iDuino 3o. The 3rd generation open soucred Apple-Arduino microprocessor.

iDuino_ad

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shaping the future shaped by the present

Many of these readings argue that pieces of literary or video future predictions  have a direct influence over the future that becomes realized. I don’t think that this is a one way street though. I don’t think that applied technology is being blindly tugged along by science fiction and corporate visions. I think there’s a give and take between realized technological advancements and predictions for future. True, the influence of concept products and science fiction gadgets has an apparent effect on tech implementation. However, isn’t it equally true that future predictions are also influenced by the present that they are concepted within. Most predictive pieces hold some foundation in reality. In most cases they are merely projections of current scientific research directions and topics. I think the most interesting impact science fiction and concept product videos can have is their ability to portray social changes in relation to new technologies.

Guerrilla Futurists

Some points made in this paper seemed to confirm my feelings about the effectiveness of different design fiction mediums. A common string between many of the articles and papers we have read this semester has been about the difference between expressing design fiction as literature or a physical prototype. This paper goes on to make points that the field of design fiction is mainly accessible to educated Western males because of its dependence on English. Because expression and comprehension of design fiction pieces often relies heavily on being fluent in English it is inherently made unaccessible to anyone who does not know English. This means that the future is being imagined and projected to the public by a very small subset of the population.

I would make the argument that expressing design fiction pieces as physical prototypes and scenario narratives rather than text heavy representations could increase accessibility. Pictures and objects are fairly universal and can be understood intuitively. I’m in support of people working cross/anti disciplinarily. “For over a millennium, the official language of science was latin – a very effective way to keep the masses out of knowledge-generating activity”. These intentional barriers to keep knowledge from the masses is particularly frightening to me. Maybe these barriers are put in place by people who are afraid they might be proven wrong or that a “non-professional” might do better work than them. Should “un-trained” designers be kept out of design?

Assignment I – Rachel

http://time.com/3681714/nutellla-child/

A judge noted that Nutella “is the trade name of a spread” 

30 years in the future people are no longer impressed or affected by traditional advertising methods. Companies have decided to change their tactics and a new advertizing strategy has been adopted called, Integrative Marketing. The goal of Integrative marketing is to permeate a brand through all aspects of life by the way of constant subtle advertising. It is no longer enough to only have celebrity sponsors and endorsements. Now everyday people are hired for product placement.

One of the most common forms of Integrative Marketing is product-name-dropping (PND). People are paid to mention a product, brand or company casually around other people throughout the day. Some people are paid per mention while other’s work on a salary basis and must meet a mention quota each month. In order to track the number of mentions a PND candidate makes, their speech is recorded and analyzed real-time via a wearable microphone. Other forms of Integrative Marketing include; everyday-product-placement, wearable-brand-placement and, the most extreme, brand-body-modifications.

PND has lead many people to name their pets and more recently, their children, after a brand or product in an attempt to “hack the system”. This is of course unfortunate for children named after certain brands. It has also created a confusing classroom environment where it is not uncommon for several students to be named things like, Geico.

Not everyone is so accepting of this new style of advertising though. People have begun adopting new forms of ad-block for the real world. These anti-ad tools actively scan the user’s surroundings for advertisements and censor them out. The most common ad-block tools are glasses which censor visual advertisements and in-ear wearables similar to hearing-aids to block auditory advertisements.

Advertisers are wise to these censoring methods and will often require people to remove or disable their ad-blocking tools in order to enter their businesses or engage in their services. Some companies have even gone to the lengths of implementing ad-block jammers that detect ad-block tools and temporarily disable them while they are within range of the jammer.

There have been several scandals about electronics companies remotely accessing their devices to gather information about customers. This data is then used for targeted advertising. In some cases the devices have used to also output data such as an alarm clock that periodically whispered it’s brand name and new products available under that brand throughout the night while it’s owner slept.

 

My future story was inspired + informed by:

The Xbox one

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/21/4352596/the-xbox-one-is-always-listening

People who get logos tattooed on themselves for money

http://www.eater.com/2014/11/24/7275707/woman-restaurant-tattoo-hip-free-curry

Julian Oliver’s Artvertiser

http://theartvertiser.com/

This Ad block project by students at PennApps

http://www.wired.com/2015/01/adblock-real-life-adblock-real-life/

brand_babyIMG_2257

What ad-blocking glasses might look like.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wItxguEM0PIDsU-SreMl2sa2REFCYjHyYskz1b7UOCk/edit