Vessyl smartcup counts the calories in everything you drink

Vessyl is a multi-touch interactive smartcup that instantly measures the nutritional content of anything you pour inside.

The Vessyl is a new multi-touch interactive cup that measures nutritional content.
Image: Vessyl

Ever wonder about the nutritional content of everything you drink in a day? Maybe you start the day by blending a healthy kale, mango, chia seed and protein powder smoothie. But then there's that whole milk caramel macchiato for a decadent afternoon treat, not to mention that glass of cabernet sauvignon at dinner. These calories add up fast, and it can be hard to keep track of what you've consumed.

There's a brand new product announced today that will measure all of this. The newest entry into the Internet of Things is a multi-touch interactive cup called Vessyl.

Vessyl co-founder and CEO Justin Lee, and co-founder Yves Behar, have crafted a sleek faceted cup that automatically knows what's inside and tracks your drinking in real time. It's almost something you have to see to believe, so Lee demonstrated during a Skype interview that any liquid can be poured into the Vessyl and, within seconds, the advanced sensing technology will recognize key pieces of information including beverage type, calories, amount consumed and how much this beverage will fill of an individual's daily hydration needs. The Vessyl is the first product developed by Mark One, a San Francisco startup where Lee is also CEO. Both companies are officially launching today.

"We have created a sensor, a proprietary sensor within the company, and it analyzes what's inside at a molecular level," Lee explained as he poured in a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso with cream. The Vessyl instantly displayed a calorie count of 140. And it works for any non-branded items, too, such as homemade cocktails and smoothies.

Vessyl has a pre-sale campaign that starts today to raise $50,000 to determine consumer demand and allow production to begin. The device will available for $99 for those who participate in the two-month campaign. It will retail for $199 once the campaign ends. The cup comes with a charging coaster that powers the cup for a week on an hour-long charge. Vessyl is expected to start shipping to consumers in early 2015, Lee said.

The Vessyl can assess the minutia of a beverage. It can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, how many calories are in a mixed drink, and the nutritional content of a homemade smoothie. It can even tell the difference between Tropicana orange juice with pulp and Tropicana orange juice without pulp, all in less than a second.

Lee said he personally uses the Vessyl to determine how much protein and caffeine he consumes. "When we were creating the Vessyl, it's about what matters to you. For some people that might be to lose weight, so they'll be mindful of their calories. We drink hundreds of calories per day. When it comes to me, I'm lifting weights so I'm constantly more mindful of how much protein I'm consuming through my beverages.

"And then there's coffee. I'm going to want to constantly be mindful of how much caffeine I'm consuming so that I can be sharp but not jittery. We created the Vessyl to be about what's important to you, but we know that there are times when it's most useful and we designed it for people's lives. People spend a lot of time at home and at work. We designed it to live well in those spaces. It's for a tabletop-like environment whether a coffee table or work desk or conference table." But of course, it also comes with a spill-proof lid, for those who want to take their beverage on the go, since moving between home and work is also part of a normal lifestyle.

The brains behind this product come from Lee and Behar. Behar designed the popular Jawbone fitness device, Jambox Bluetooth speakers and he's CEO of Fuseproject, which created the OUYA gaming console. Lee's background is biomedical computing.

Lee said the two teamed together to create the Vessyl because he wanted to make an impact in health. In 2008, Lee was working as the director of special projects at the human media lab at Queen's University School of Computing in Ontario, Canada, when he came up with the concept for the Vessyl. He said there were other researchers working on various Internet of Things types of devices. "Some people were putting computers into wristbands, some were putting them into glasses, but I wanted to put a computer into this type of object," he said.

He soon teamed with Behar at Fuseproject in San Francisco, and they began working together to develop the Vessyl.

Pryme is a line that shows daily hydration level.
Image: Vessyl

Lee said that part of the beauty of the Vessyl is that 95% of the time, it's just a sleek drinking vessel. But as soon as someone picks it up and tilts it, they can read nutritional information on a built-in screen on the side of the cup, as well as see a measurement device that shows an estimation of daily hydration needs.

"We wanted to give you some information on regarding your hydration. This is a proprietary metric that we call Pryme. We are typically told to drink eight glasses of liquid per day. But it's more complex than that because each of us are different people with different hydration needs. We take your age, your height, your weight the city you live in, your activity level into account and once we have that information we can estimate your hydration needs," Lee said.

"We really want life to mimic the body's desires of what it wants to stay sharp and to stay strong. What it matters when it comes to hydration is consistency," he said.

The vice president of health at Mark One is Dr. Mark Berman, who has an M.D. from Yale and completed his residency at Harvard. "Dr. Berman works on every single aspect of the product. The goal of our company at the end of the day really is, simply, to help people achieve their health goals. To empower people to make healthier choices in real time," Lee said.

Sample app screens for the Vessyl.
Image: Vessyl

There is an iOS and Android app available for the Vessyl, to show daily, weekly and monthly intake, in addition to the Pryme automatic display on the Vessyl every time the cup is tilted.

And will there be more down the road, such as a plate that measures the nutritional content of solid food? Lee said, "Our company is automatically focused on what we consume. We have a strong pipeline so there's more to come."

By Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is Associate Managing Editor at TechRepublic. She oversees TechRepublic's news team and TechRepublic Premium. She focuses on tech and business and how the two worlds intersect. Teena's lifelong journalism career has included writing on s...