Foodatory is a collection of highly interactive mini-games designed to introduce basic cooking skills and the concept of food safety in a fun, safe and educational way. These games involve some of the core physical motions used in cooking such as stirring, spreading and cutting. The games revolve around a selection of 'smart' kitchen utensils, each of which are capable of providing a variety of feedback to the user in order to help them smarter and safer decisions. For example, the Foodatory Knife can tell if the user is touching the blade of the knife - and will alert them to this fact.
Foodatory also employs concepts of teamwork and communicating by having the players work in seperate teams to achieve their teams goal. These teams will then come together at the end to make a giant pizza. By building upon the foundations of food safety, Foodatory aims to teach responsibility and safety to children in the context of a fun cooking environment.
(Exhibit Photography by Judit Losh 2019)
Foodatory has 4 main pieces which each utilise their own technology to enhance the overall experience for the users.
The Foodatory Knife is aimed at ensuring that the user does not engage in any unsafe practices. The knife itself is composed of Polymorph (a highly moldable plastic), which was chosen to ensure that the tool is safe while appearing as a knife should.
For the technological side of the knife, a speaker, SD card reader and a vibration motor were all placed within the handle alongside an Arduino Nano (which contained the coding required for all the technology). Furthermore, a strip of Neopixels were lined along the top of the blade. The blade itself was covered in a conductive tape which was also wired to the Arduino to provide a capacitive touch sensor. These technologies would work together whenever the blade was touched and trigger a reading for the capacitive touch; the knife would simultaneously vibrate, flash red and play a small 'warning' sound to indicate that the user had done something 'unsafe'.
The Foodatory Ladle and Bowl were more focussed on the novel aspect and were used to appeal more to the target audience. The ladle was made of out a PVC pipe with a Polymorph-made spoon attached and the end (with a line of conductive tape along the bottom). The bowl, however, was a standard bowl. The tech used for the ladle revolved around an accelerometer and a HC-05 Bluetooth module, both connected to an Arduino Nano. The tech used for the bowl was an RFID Reader, a strip of Neopixels around the top of the bowl and a HC-06 Bluetooth module also connected to an Arduino.
The RFID reader would be used to determine which 'sauce' is being used for the pizza, with a number of ingredients containing RFID tags being provided. Once a sauce has been selected, the Neopixels would flash green to indicate this. If the ladle was moving, it would alert the bowl through an established link between the Bluetooth modules and light up the Neopixels depending on how much movement had been done. After a certain amount of movement had been conducted, the Neopixels would flash green to indicate the stirring had been completed.
.The Foodatory Table served as a foundation for the pizza to be built upon. The table is a circular table with conductive thread and tape covering the surface. The conductive thread is connected to pins connecting to an Arduino which are serving as a form of capacitive touch. The table is covered by a layer of foam that has conductive thread woven through it (which serves as the base of the pizza). This layer serves as a medium for the ladle (and the conductive tape on it) to send charge through the dough and into the capacitive touch to project a colour onto the base (depending on what sauce had been chosen).
Overall, Foodatory was much more successful than what we previously expected. Our expectations were that the vast majority of users (who would not be part of primary target audience) would not enjoy Foodatory, as both aspects of novelty and food safety were aimed at a much younger audience. However, the response we received was overwhelmingly positive from all users; users were seen to be greatly enjoying themselves and the popularity of Foodatory only seemed to grow over the course of the exhibit.
In regards to Foodatory itself, by treating the exhibit as a massive amount of user tests, we were able to see a number of oversights that, if improved upon, would greatly improve the overall experience of Foodatory. For example, there were a number of times that a user with a Bluetooth device would come and play Foodatory; this would occasionally interrupt the Bluetooth connection between the bowl and ladle. By having a WiFI connection instead, the connections would be more robust.
Another key issue that was noticed was the fact that the knife only responded to negative actions – while this was something that we definitely wanted, the vast majority of the time the knife appeared as a normal knife. This was a problem as it was seen that by having the user see their progress and receive positive reinforcement (which occurs in the ladle) they would be more invested in their actions. By rewarding the user for positive actions, the knife would be far more appealing.
There were also issues with the capacitive touch in the dough that would need to be addressed in further iterations of Foodatory. There were occasions in which the capacitive touch would not pick up the ladle touching the dough. However, there were also times in which the capacitive thread and tape were sending through excessive amounts of charge without the ladle touching which would cause the projection to display the sauce upon load. To try and counteract this issue for the exhibit, we faked the dough technology to a certain degree, by touching the capacitive touch directly when the user touched the dough. This issue would need to be resolved in future iterations as it is a crucial part of Foodatory.