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Do we need a cup that tells us what we are drinking?

This week, we’ll look into the Vessyl and if it’s taking the “Internet of Things” too far.

Have you heard of this new product? It is a cup that tells you what liquid is in it. Watch the video below for a (way too long) explanation.

The video boasts the cup’s ability to track the user’s hydration, as well as calorie, fat, and sugar intake. Of course it connects wirelessly to an app on your phone (like every “Internet of Things” product) and an online tracking system of what you consume. Many, including me, have questions about this, the most obvious one being: why do we need this? I would argue this is taking the “Internet of Things” idea to an unnecessary and ridiculous place.

The product becomes more ridiculous when you learn the process of its production. It has been over 7 years in the making, which begs the question “how hard is it to design a cup??” Their promotional video portrays a lot of overdevelopment, using phrases like “we wanted to design something that could live comfortably on a table top.” Of course a regular cup already does this, so why did it take so long to design?

After getting initial money from crowd-funding and pre-orders, the product, which is estimated to cost $199 per cup, was supposed to begin delivering to customers early this year. After multiple delays, it has been set back yet again and is projected to start shipping merchandise in late 2015. Many of those who pre-ordered, are displeased and disappointed with the company, Mark One. Combined with investor dollars, pre-orders have earned the company over $3 million dollars, without Mark One producing anything to show for it.

This product has become somewhat of a joke in the tech industry and elsewhere, even finding airtime on The Colbert Report to be the butt of Stephen Colbert’s jokes.

As Colbert points out, the cup just seems to be acting as a middle-man. Is it necessary to pour something from a container into another container that tells us what’s in it? To quote Colbert, “That level of information was previously available only on the can.” In situations where it might actually be helpful, for instance a mixed alcoholic drink, or a smoothie, the Vessyl only identifies “Mix.” This makes sense since its sensors must be based on data that already exists. Data that’s on the can or bottle that we already have.

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Despite its ridicule, Vessyl has had a lot of success and has attracted big name investors and talent, among which are former Nike and Apple execs. They have made a lot of money and have gained a lot of press attention, for better or for worse.

I would conclude this product is overpriced, overdeveloped, and unnecessary. A product like this has potential to serve a use, such as identifying the presence of roofies or unknown substances in a drink. However, so far it seems to give us information that we already know, and takes the “Internet of Things” too far.

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