Healthie is excited to partner with SugAR Poke and the Eradicate Childhood Obesity Foundation (EChO) to help build healthier lives using evidence-based research to drive nutritional education. We are delighted to collaborate with such a momentous cause. Healthie was created with the mission to improve access to nutritional care and EChO is creating tools consumers can use to shop smarter.
We got the opportunity to sit down with the founder of EChO to learn about his newest venture, SugAR Poke, the first augmented reality (AR) app to be used in a public health context.
Healthie: Tell us about EChO and SugAR Poke.
The mission of EChO – Eradicate Childhood Obesity Foundation, Inc. – is to eradicate childhood obesity throughout the United States and build healthier lives using evidence-based research to drive nutritional education. EChO believes that every child has the right to live a life unburdened by obesity. Nutrition education and the use of technology to make education accessible will encourage consumers to lower their added sugar consumption to help eradicate childhood obesity. This summer there is a team of 12 interns who are working to promote the app, run the social media accounts, and apply for grants.
SugAR Poke is the first augmented reality (AR) app to be used in a public health context. It is completely free on the App Store and Google Play. It scans products in the grocery store and displays a label on your phone to reveal how much added sugar is in the product. A black label with the number of teaspoons of added sugar will be superimposed if the product contains added sugar, and a green label is superimposed if the product has zero teaspoons of added sugar. This system is easy for consumers to understand, and they will know to look for the green label.
Healthie: How does SugAR Poke exactly work with AR?
SugAR Poke uses your smartphone camera to scan the labels of foods in the grocery store like salad dressing, yogurts, and granola bars, then uses image recognition software to connect to the EChO database and display how many teaspoons of added sugar are in the entire product.
Healthie: What was the inspiration behind the creation of SugAR Poke?
SugAR Poke is the culmination of an extensive development process. When we founded EChO, we wanted to pass the Front Label Act that would require food manufacturers to print a label on the front of packages revealing the number of teaspoons of added sugar in the product. We found that this initiative would take years, possibly even a decade, to go into effect, and then started to think about how we could bypass the bureaucratic side of food labeling.
We were inspired by augmented reality goggles and thought they would be a good way to allow people to “see” the labels by wearing a pair while shopping, and the goggles would recognize packaging and superimpose the label with the amount of added sugar. But we quickly realized that it would be difficult to make that technology widespread, so we instead decided to develop a free smartphone app that is accessible and affordable for consumers.
Healthie: How do you think technology is making it easier for people to eat healthier and improve access to care?
Technology makes it much easier for consumers to access more information about their food. Everyone looks out for different things while they’re eating, and information about calories, nutritional content, and of course added sugar is becoming more prominent.
Access to care is also becoming more widespread because people can do research online and figure out how to get health insurance, go to a PCP or a specialist, and what to expect during an appointment, or even have a virtual appointment! Because SugAR Poke is using new (AR) technology it may have some special appeal with the young generation and engage them in healthy eating choices.
Healthie: What’s next for SugAR Poke?
EChO is fundraising a total of $40,000 for the development of the smartphone app via traditional sources of funding, grants and sponsoring and also on Kickstarter (https://tinyurl.com/SugAR-Poke). The goal is to expand SugAR Poke coverage and database to the entire United States food system so that every product in grocery stores is included in the app.
If you want to find out more about this innovative technology, visit EChO’s website.