Smart a la carte: 11 hi-tech gadgets for your food

Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT) October 3, 2014
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Lock away your valuables

Here's how this works. You have something that you want to keep away from yourself for some time, such as cookies, candy, or your PlayStation 4 gamepad. You set the timer. You satisfyingly press the big button.

From then onwards, you will not be able to access your goodies until the timer runs out. There is no way in. The thing is made of sturdy plastic three times thicker than regular containers, its makers say.

If the virtues of delayed gratification are too much for your self control, the Kitchen Safe might do you some good. Just don't stare at the cookies for three days.

Born out of a successful Kickstarter, the smart containers sell for $50 apiece.
by Jacopo Prisco, for CNN
Beaming up the calories

TellSpec is a small handheld device that seems to have come right out of Star Trek: you just point it at food, and within seconds you get a complete nutritional profile of what you're about to eat, on your smartphone screen.

It can do so using infrared light, beamed towards the food and then analyzed by a spectrometer, an instrument that measures the properties of light. The data is sent -- using your smartphone or tablet -- to TellSpec servers in the cloud, which can infer ingredients, calories, allergens, nutrients and chemicals present in your food just from the infrared light.

The project received funding via Indiegogo last year, and has also secured additional money from investors. The technical specifications have changed since then, and the company is now working with Texas Instruments to integrate their technology into the scanner. The makers of TellSpec seem confident that they can bring it to the market soon.
Courtesy TellSpec
Take the guesswork out of cooking

The George Foreman grill might finally see a new contestant enter the ring: it's called the Palate Smart Grill and it promises restaurant-level cooking finesse at home, at the press of a button. Or rather, a tap on a screen.

You just tell the machine what you're cooking and how you want it cooked, all through a smartphone and tablet app, and the Palate does everything else for you, using its many sensors and its ability to monitor the temperature down to 0.2 degrees Celsius of precision.

Overcooked? Undercooked? Never again. That hint of disappointment on your guests' faces at dinner parties? Forget about it. The grill isn't yet available to buy, but eager customers can choose to be notified as soon as it will be.
Courtesy Palate Home
Chopsticks from the future

Chinese search giant Baidu wants to be the next Google, and on top of launching its own version of Google Glass, it has also announced an innovative pair of electronic chopsticks.

They can detect, first and foremost, the quality of the oil used in your food, flashing a red light if it's unsafe for consumption. And they can tell if your drinking water is tainted by contaminants.

Other than warning you about a range of unwanted health hazards, they can also check the temperature of your food, saving you from the dreaded 'noodle burn'. No word yet on when they're going to be available, though.
Courtesy Baidu
The coolest Kickstarter ever?

What's cool and made $13 million on Kickstarter? The Coolest cooler, of course. What's special about it? It includes a blender, waterproof Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, cutting board and bottle opener. A "portable party", as its creator describes it.

That's enough to achieve the most successful Kickstarter campaign of all time, which passed its humble $50,000 goal within 36 hours of launching, this past July. And then it skyrocketed all the way to $13,285,226.

Backers of the campaign will be the first to receive their coolers, early next year. General distribution will begin shortly thereafter, with a price tag of $299.
Courtesy Coolest
The smart fork that slows you down

The key to better health might just be in pacing yourself. Eating too fast can lead lead to poor digestion, weight gain and other complications like gastric reflux.

If you just can't force yourself to slow down, the HAPIfork might be the solution to your woes: it's an electronic fork that gently nudges you into eating slowly, by using lights and vibrations. If you're speeding, you get a warning in the form of flashing red lights and the fork subtly vibrates in your mouth, electric toothbrush-style.

Every bite then becomes a 'fork serving', and the sophisticated piece of cutlery measures how many servings per minute you ingest and the time interval between each one, providing you with a complete statistical profile that is uploaded via Bluetooth or USB to an app or a website.

The forks are already commercially available for $99 apiece.
Courtesy Hapilabs
Bake'n share (on social media)

Meet the Drop. It's a combination of an iPad recipe app and a smart kitchen scale that can make an expert baker out of everyone.

The scale accurately measures your ingredients, while the app keeps track of what you're doing and timely guides you through every step. It also has the ability to learn from your mistakes and can suggest alternate ingredients in case you're fresh out of something.

And at the end of your triumphant baking endeavor, you are just one tap away from soliciting compliments from all your friends on social media.

The Drop is currently available for pre-order with a $80 price tag.

Also, please refrain from using the iPad as a chopping board. Even though it's tempting, we know.
Courtesy Adaptics
Spot the gluten

If you suffer from food allergies, you know how crucial it can be to know exactly what's on your plate.

6SensorLabs is a startup born out of an MIT project that aims to create a smart, affordable allergy sensor. It will be used in conjunction with disposable probes that will come in direct contact with the food.

Initially, the sensor will primarily detect gluten, helping out those who suffer from Coeliac disease. The goal is to put the device on the market soon for less than $150.
Courtesy 6SensorLabs
What's in your cup?

The Vessyl can tell you. It's a sleek, sturdy 13-ounce cup fitted with sensors that can detect within seconds what you have poured in it.

But wait, shouldn't you already know what you've poured in it? The Vessyl opens itself to easy criticism, but that's missing the point a bit: intended as a fitness device -- it was designed in collaboration with the creator of the Jawbone Up wristband -- it gathers data about what you're drinking and monitors your intake of sugars and alcohol.

It works great as a party trick, too: it can recognize a specific brand of smoothie, and is able to discern an exact flavor of Frappuccino.

The Vessyl starts shipping in early 2015 and costs $99.
Courtesy Vessyl
Connect with your food

This stylish, eco-friendly kitchen scale is able to give you "real-time insight into your food", according to its makers.

What this means is that the nutritional makeup -- protein, carbs, fat -- of what you put on the scale is immediately turned into a pie chart (of course), giving you a great deal of control over what you eat.

The base is made of aluminum, while the top is a "non-porous, recycled paper composite" that is easily rinsed.

The Prep Pad, which only works in conjunction with an iPad (3 onwards), is made in Silicon Valley and costs $150.
Courtesy The Orange Chef
When a label is not enough

Have you ever suspected that your locally-sourced, 100% organic pomegranate might actually have come in contact with synthetic fertilizers?

If you're on the hunt for fake organic produce, the Lapka probe might have the answers you need.

Fertilizers leave behind a trace in the form of nitrates, which the probe can detect: connect the cord to a smartphone, stick the pointy end into your greens, and the verdict will soon come.

The Lapka is actually a multi-sensor device that can also detect radiation, electromagnetic fields and humidity. The full set sells for $250, the individual sensors for $80 each.
Courtesy Lapka