Jun 25, 2015 | By Simon

It’s no secret that among all of the hot tech devices right now, 3D printers and fitness trackers rank up there among the highest on the list.  

But what would happen if the both of them combined into a seamless experience?  

For a new behavioral experiment that’s taking place in Australia, ten Melbourne families will install a 3D printer in their home that will produce various 3D printed chocolate objects based on the frequency and intensity of their exercise.  

While food-based 3D printers haven’t exploded in popularity as much as more traditional desktop 3D printers have, experiments such as these are helping find more effective ways of using them beyond just creating decorative edible objects.  

Among other components of the study, the researchers are also hoping to see if 3D printing the chocolate as a form of a reward is enough to make exercising enjoyable for those who otherwise don’t find physical activity to be a fun way of staying active.  

For the duration of the experiment, each person’s daily exercise data will be tracked and each evening - depending on how much exercise was performed that day - a chocolate object will be printed on an EdiPulse 3D printer.  Ultimately, the printer seeks to encourage the physical activity through a variety of supportive message in the form of emojis and encouraging quips including smiley faces, flowers and personal messages such as "Well done, Mate!".    

"We think of it as positive reinforcement," said Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researcher Rohit Ashok Khot, who is actively working on the experiment.  

"It's not directly looked at in terms of the size and quantity, but the more exercise you do, the more cheerful and beautiful the chocolate becomes."

The experiment presents an interesting new way of thinking about the relatively-new concept of the quantified self: how can we quantify our rewards based off our quantified efforts?  

Of course, just because somebody exercises for 12 hours doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be rewarded with the entire tank of chocolate, either; none of the dark chocolate treats will exceed 30 millilitres a day.  

While chocolate was chosen based on its ability to be printed easily and consistently, Khot is hoping that if the experiment proves to be successful, he’ll start exploring healthier foods that can be printed as rewards, too.     

"People like to track their exercise data using things like Fitbits, but that only gets seen in numbers and graphs on a screen," he added. "Now that we can track exercise, why not connect it to an edible material?"

The study is expected to culminate in September and while there’s no word on what will become of the results, it’s safe to say that experiments such as this one are helping lead a new generation of thinking about what can be done with food-based 3D printers.  




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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