Innovation Sighting: Task Unification in Kitchenware

Many “wearable tech” devices measure the calories you burn in a day. But weight watchers know that’s only half the equation. You also need an accurate count of calories consumed. Now a new device will do just that. It’s called Vessyl, a cup that will not only identify and track what you drink and how much of it, but also sense the liquid type. It will transform how we consume every ounce of liquid throughout the day.

As reported by CNET:

“Caffeine and sugar amounts, alongside calorie count and a proprietary metric for hydration called Pryme, are tracked through an app on your phone, and bits of that information are also displayed on a screen embedded within the cup itself. The display glimmers to life only when new liquids are poured in to notify you that, yes, you are drinking coffee — and here’s how much caffeine that particular brew will put into your system. A small pillar of light also tells you how drinking that particular amount of that particular liquid will hurt or help your level of hydration as well.”

It’s a great example of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the innovation method, Systematic Inventive Thinking. Task Unification works by assigning as additional task to an existing resource.

Let’s extend the concept and imagine putting the technology in other kitchenware such as plates, knives, forks, and spoons. For example, what if your plate was divided into sections for different types of food (meats, vegetables, and so on). The plate could weigh and detect the quantity and type of food to measure calories. Perhaps it could recommend optimal amounts of food based on calories burned during the day. Or imagine a fork that sticks in food and measures the fat and calorie content. Now you’d have a way to truly balance your intake and outtake to reach those elusive weight goals.

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.

2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:

  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function

3. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.

4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?

5. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?