Radiation is a scary prospect to most people. In the past decades we have seen one of our major energy sources wreck havoc to the locally grown produce in parts of Japan and Europe. Especially in Japan, there is still a large concern over food grown or caught in areas close to Fukushima. The government’s actions and communication in the first couple of weeks after the catastrophe have lead to mistrust and fear about what foods are safe to consume. Even though Japan’s radiation safety levels are now one of the most stringent in the world, people still choose not to eat produce from that area.
But radiation itself is not harmful - too much of it is. So we asked ourselves how could we redesign a Geiger counter for the home that reaffirms instead of worries. The result is Food Radiation Scanner. It's a small-kitchen countertop appliance that improves on handheld Geiger counters in that it offers more accurate and understandable readings in a shorter amount of time.
We quickly built mock-ups to determine size, interaction and form within the context of small kitchens and tested them using Wizard-of-Oz tests. From the visual language, to the touch dial and to the sound design we strove to create a positive experience to a difficult topic. It is designed in a way that it aims to decrease fear and uncertainty with repeated use – eventually rebuilding trust in the governmental communication. We think the idea is especially interesting once a network of these stations are considered, each of them reporting how little contaminated food actually makes it onto a consumers dinner plate.
So in that sense, Food Radiation Scanner empowers people directly affected by a nuclear power leak to take back control of their food safety. And for the rest of us it may give us a new awareness of what we could be up against.