MakerFaire Rome, European Edition, 2013

OVERVIEW: Eggspiry Date is simple intelligence embedded in an packaging that empowers it to communicate if it is too old to eat, through sound & haptic feedback to the consumer.


Eggspiry Date brings up the question; what if food could talk to us and tell us certain things like, if it’s still good to eat. Since we are already surrounded by things and objects that have intelligence embedded in them, it seems natural to think that the same would happen with the food we buy, or at least the packaging of it. With an egg box, or any other food or beverage that derived from living animals it does seem quite ironic and morbid, that this once living comestible can now communicate to us and tell if it is ageing and if it is close to it’s end. 


Packaging design has always been obliged to inform the consumers about important information like exact ingredients and when it expires. This information is crucial to the people who are using the product but most often this information is completely unnoticeable. There are many ways you could imagine food talking back to you, through sound, light, force feedback, amplified fragrance etc. When seen in different contexts like for the elderly, the visually impaired or even for people in a hurry, the potential of packaging communicating with us becomes increasingly relevant. 


It was important for us, not to come up with our own version of an egg box but instead work with what packaging already exists. Only then could we best relate to it as food and thereby ensure a realistic setting and focus on the behaviour of the food item. There was also a lot of thought put into figuring out the right tones for the little tune without making it sound disturbing or annoying. Hence, we went with a fairly subtle melody where small staccato tones symbolise the life energy of the item. This voice is slightly exaggerated in the concept video, along with all other sounds. 


When opened for the first time a melody starts playing. This happens every time it is opened. Over time, the merry tune decreases in tempo proportional to the force feedback getting stronger and harder to pull. Finally when the eggs have reached their expiration date the box stops playing it’s melody and loses all it’s power. We used Arduino and Processing for prototyping Eggspiry Date, as well as a custom made PCB (provided by Bill Verplank). Furthermore an electromagnetic slider was put inside the egg box to create the force feedback. 


Eggspiry Date has a critical design nature, and questions how we interact with food as of today. Its strength lies in forecasting a potential future and questioning the way we deal with such a simple thing as food. We put up a scenario that is interesting to imagine but also not too hard to accept as near future. As an interaction designer it is sometimes more refreshing to be surprised than convinced by design. We hope that we can surprise and inspire with Eggspiry Date by telling a humorous story of something that might very well become very obvious to us one day. Eggspiry Date was chosen to be exhibited at MakerFaire Rome2013, where it received great response.


The egg box we hacked and breath “life” into, is to be seen more as a comment to design thinking rather than a true design product. We do not say that it is feasible or that it makes sense to install small motors or mechanical systems into all food items. Still, with technology being able to work on almost atomic levels, we will not dismiss it either. Branding exists in the food industry as well as in any other industry, so designing packaging to be as efficient and spectacular as possible is always of highest priority. Still as mentioned before simple, useful and important information is often downsized. This information can surely be better featured.