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Yumit wants to get kids eating by turning calories into virtual energy for interactive games

As most of us know from personal experience either as parents or when we were children ourselves, eating vegetables isn’t the average child’s favourite part of the day. Some parents pull the vegetables or no dessert card, while others resort to hiding veggies in fun foods. One way or another, there’s hassle and often tears involved.

An Argentinian advertising agency has created a system that may just make dinnertime easier. Wunderman Buenos Aires has created Yumit, which aims to get kids eating by incentivising them. Yumit turns dinner time into an interactive game through a special scale on which a plate of food is set, with sensors monitoring how much food is eaten. Each gram of food eaten turned into virtual energy that can be used in a game.

Jose Azanza Arias, one of the founders of Yumit, said the idea came after a brainstorming session where the team tried to think of everyday problems they could all identify with.

“At a first stage we addressed the problem of food waste and felt that there was a clear opportunity to create a new service or product that would help solve this issue. After a couple of weeks the research led us to directly focus on food waste generated in families homes. Then we found that is a relevant issue that parents face on a daily basis,” Arias said.

“This new path not only seemed to solve our initial concern, but it also represented a great challenge, to develop something that would also help our own team.”

yumit.io
yumit.io

As well as getting kids to eat, the accompanying mobile app for parents allows them to upload the food their child ate, helping them track their child’s nutrition.

The development of Yumit posed a significant question for the Wunderman team: how were they, a group of advertisers who had developed and launched a few smartphone apps, going to create a hardware product?

“We therefore had to create a new team including new profiles, involve a technologist and an industrial designer, as well as to design their roles, dynamics and working methodologies which had to be totally collaborative. We are confident that our greatest challenge is yet to come, but we fully support and trust that Yumit is the solution we were looking for,” Arias said.

The system was developed through testing with parents and children, with extensive research done to see what makes a popular children’s product.

Now, before you say that smartphones and tablets shouldn’t be used at the table, the team was in fact careful to create a product that would not disrupt a meal. Data from the meal is synced to devices, to be used after eating.

“Yumit adds a layer of interactivity to a universal ritual, old as humanity itself, and it does it in a noninvasive way, as it integrates well to the existing elements which are part of the family tables worldwide. We even decided that it should not involve too much visible technology since this would interrupt the normal development process of sitting at a table to eat and would deviate the children’s attention,” Arias said.

Wunderman is looking for ways to collaborate with other brands that operate in the same space; Arias said the startup is happy to open its API to companies that want to use the platform and the data it captures to enhance the experience of their games, as Wunderman is not developing the games itself.

Arias said Wunderman isn’t looking to rush to market; they are currently considering going down the crowdfunding route.

“In the short term we would like to close some kind of agreement with an incubator or accelerator to validate and fully develop our solution. At the same time, we hope that they would lead us across the path that will make Yumit a complete, successful, and profitable product.”