Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Will There Be An iPhone Peripheral That Can Test If Organic Foods Are Really Organic?

Most iPhone peripherals aim low. They make the case a bit more durable or add a better speaker. They marginally improve a pretty darn good product. But is something totally different. It’s an appcessory billed as a “personal environment monitor,” and through its collection of four peripherals, Lapka gathers analog measures of humidity/temperature, radiation, electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), and organicity (whether or not a food is truly organic). And it does so beautifully, with a mix of plastic and wood components--aesthetics that were considered down to the circuit boards, which will also match in white. 
“Since this is a healthcare and environmental product, we used organic materials like wood and ivory-like plastic, it will look better with time … it’ll become your very own, personal talisman,” says Creative Director Vadik Marmeladov. “Our aim was to build an native iPhone accessory--not a design copy attempt. All our designs, usage simplicity, attention to detail and quality are based on Apple philosophy and mood, so we don’t have to copy iPhone’s shiny body to fit its aesthetics.”

Each peripheral obviously works a bit differently. The most compelling--the organicity device--uses a steel probe to check for nitrate concentration, which are commonly used in non-organic fertilizers. But the cleverness comes in how Lapka shares this information with the user. A parts per million measurement would make no sense to the average person, just like few of us have any understanding of acceptable radiation levels. 

In turn, the UI (which we’re currently unable to test) approaches each measurement at two levels. The first is a simple “is this acceptable” style measurement screen, which can contextualize worries like EMF based upon your predicted environmental exposure, or weather by typical temperatures in your area that time of year.

“For example, you can measure radiation on the plane and little bit higher level will be okay, because app knows that you won’t stay there for 24 hours and that higher radiation is common for the planes,” Marmeladov writes. “But with the same level of radiation in your kid’s bedroom it will alarm you and give you explanation to motivate your further actions. So, people don’t have to rely on their knowledge about radiation anymore to protect their family and themselves.”

The second way Lapka visualizes information is entirely abstract. Marmeladov likens the experience to an Ambilight television, as onscreen particles accelerate in a red pool as the environment becomes less safe. This environmental snapshot can then be sent to friends, who can view it without purchasing the system. Of course, not having seen the effect in person, it certainly sounds a bit strange. But then again, how else but abstraction are we going to visualize these absurdly tiny details like radiation and nitrates? 
As of now, Lapka is in prototype stage, ramping up for mass production soon. (We’ll see if these sensors can really do what they promise.) The collection of four peripherals should be available this December for roughly $220. And following that, Lapka’s team will likely chase all other peripherals, like an allergen sensor, glucometer, blood pressure monitor, oscilloscope, vehicle diagnostics device, and fitness tracker. Your iPhone may soon resemble a centipede. - Mark Wilson, Fast Co Designs

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