< R E T U R N

How to empower and protect consumers in a nuclear accident scenario?



Group project with Jost Siebert, Kevin Gaunt and Peter Alwin. 

2 weeks

Created for the Industrial Sound Design course at the UID Interaction Design programme, Food Radiation Scanner is a kitchen appliance that helps people determine if their groceries are safe to consume. 

The target audience are Japanese households affected by the Fukushima incident living in areas where elevated radiation levels can be observed in fresh food at local markets. The Food Radiation Scanner improves on handheld Geiger counters in that it offers more accurate and understandable readings in a shorter amount of time. This way we hope to make customers feel safe about buying locally grown food again.

For us this project offers two interesting perspectives on how we look at our food supply. In a sense, the project’s context is one that nobody wants to be confronted with.

The first perspective of looking at this project is through the eyes of people that have not had to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear incident. To those people we hope this design serves as a reminder of how our own energy choices might shape the future environment we all live in.

The second perspective is through the eyes of people living in Japan. To them the Food Radiation Scanner offers a positive take on something inherently frightening. One example of this is its lack of detailed radiation readings. We believe that providing the exact numbers might lead to people start worrying unnecessarily about the natural radiation found in all of our food supply. We therefore see the Food Radiation Scanner as offering a real benefit over having to visit radiation measurement stations and a way to buy local groceries without having to worry.


Designing for empathy and safety



We kicked off the this two week project with a research phase in which we focussed on food contamination and radiation measurements. We then looked into how people are dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima incident. Most of our findings resulted from a Skype interview with a person living in Tokyo two years ago. We then looked at photographs of Japanese kitchens, learned about the home cooking culture and studied previous work on consumption behaviour.



During the ideation phase we emphasised building mock-ups to determine size, interaction and form within the context of small kitchens. After testing with food items of various sizes and in different containers we arrived at the final package size. In multiple iterations we then improved on the interaction and sound design of the product. Using Wizard-of-Oz tests with low-fi paper prototypes, we found that it was important to keep our feedback and functional sounds short and in-line with users expectations regarding the tone of the design.


It was also important to consider the sounds environment already present in most kitchen environments. We used sound boards (the sound equivalent to mood boards) to communicate expectations amongst team members. Based on the outcome of these tests we realised that we needed to simplify both the number of interactions as well as the way the result needed to be communicated. We found that most people were only interesting to find out if a food item was safe for consumption.




Visual Interface


Sound interface


Mentions and Awards


Core 77 Student Runner Up 2014 - Food Design Category

Jury Comments - A very powerful design for a very realistic issue. In many cases technology in combination with food enables loss of connection to the own soil. In this case the design is made to ensure a more firm connection, feeling of safety and trust in local food. Also it will help fight against food waste. Another interesting effect of showing this design at an international contest like this is that it gives us a glimp into the reality of daily life of many. It shows us a creepy glimpse of something that could happen anywhere, also next to our own doorstep. A big issue is made tangible.