Turning Dinner Into a Video Game Makes Eating Veggies Fun(ish)

Converting each bite into virtual currency might end picky eating habits.


Picky eaters are a pain in the ass. Doubly so when they’re kids. Triply so when they’re someone else’s kids. But at least kids are easily gamed. The Argentinian design team behind Yumit — essentially a placemat that turns eating into a video game — is banking on this fact in their quest to trick kids into eating better.

The Yumit is an “interactive meal set” complete with cute little place mat, plate, and cutlery that weighs the meal as it’s being consumed. As kids eat, the sensor sends real-time data on the decreasing meal’s weight to a phone-based app, where it’s transformed into “virtual currency” that the kids can use to play games on other consoles.

Money, whether real or virtual, is a surefire way to incentivize anything, though the Yumit makes you wonder whether kids will get into the habit of expending to be rewarded for keeping themselves alive. Will restaurant meals go uneaten? Will parents become Yumit slaves, forced to bring their child’s blinking meal facilitator everywhere they go? Probably not. It’s probably a clever idea with more practical application in hospitals than in anyone’s home. But no one wants to market to the elderly community or the dementia community so there you have it.

What the technology here does reflect is the trend toward more constant and consistent data collection dovetailing with the trend towards trying to artificially construct virtuous cycles. Think of this as a FitBit for forks.

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