For $199, This Cup Tells You What It's Holding

12_19_SmallProblems_Vessyl
Ancient studies have shown that future studies on how we drink our beverages prove we've been doing it all wrong; track your calories with this cup. Vessyl

Ebola. ISIS. Downed airlines. Ukraine. 2014 threw up some confounding dilemmas. Our "Silver Bullets" series comes to the rescue with seven big solutions to some of the most complex problems the world is facing. But we also decided to turn our attention to some of the world's smallest problems, from getting out of a date with a click of your heels to an eternal question: Where am I going to find the perfect dive-bar T-shirt?

Each day for a week, we'll roll out one idea dreamed up by an enthusiastic entrepreneur or company to solve a problem that seems quite small in the context of the world's biggest issues, petty even. Unless it's your problem. Are these solutions as important, and as inspiring, as our "silver bullets"? No, but they prove once again that there are no limits to human ingenuity—or to the messes humans can cook up.

For the past seven years, Justin Lee has been obsessed with a cup. His creation, Vessyl, looks very much like any travel mug might: sleek, easy to hold, with push opening. Unlike any mug though, Vessyl knows what is inside it, how many calories it has and how much protein and sugar are in it. Also unlike any mug, it'll cost you $199 plus shipping (though the presale price is $99.)

"I knew product experience and product design were really important when we are creating a new experience with an object, the cup, that we are so familiar with," Justin Lee, the co-founder of Vessyl, told Newsweek. Lee has a background in biomedical computing, combining biology, chemistry, life science and computer science.

Maintaining a simple exterior design, Lee focused on packing the Vessyl's inner workings with more technology than had ever been used in a mug before. Sensors allow the cup to "read" the drink, up to 13 ounces in total, tracking the nutritional content of what is within: calorie count, sugar, fat, protein, sodium and caffeine. The information is then uploaded to an app, and the total amount of each drink consumed is tracked. If you're filling it with espresso three times a day, it's going to let you know that perhaps, it's time to cut back on the java.

Of course, this isn't a new concept. Calorie tracking applications have been around since the rise of smartphones and nutritional information is listed on the side of most beverages. And if it's not on the side of your drink, calories and caffeine content are, at furthest, on the web. But Vessyl is all in the automated process.

While the technology is new and exciting, it has some drawbacks. While a mug might be perfect for coffee, it may stand out in a bar crowd full of Guinness pints (though some buyers told Lee they plan on using it for wine.) In order to track drinks you don't pour into your smart-mug, you'll need manually input the beverage into the app. And there's the steep price tag.

"For some people, [the goal] might be to lose weight, so that's the tracker of calories. For me, I'm working out more, so I'm mindful of how much protein I'm consuming," explained Lee. "I also drink a lot of coffee, so I'm mindful of my caffeine so I'm sharp but not jittery."

While hundreds of Vessyl buyers are purchasing the cup for health reasons, Lee admitted that many are just fascinated by the unusual gadget. "People are super excited about the technology and what the sensor is able to do and how we are trying to push forward how we interact with objects. Some people are purchasing it because it's new, delightful and potentially powerful user experience that they can have in their life," Lee explained. That is all to say: It's cool and weird. It's a party trick. A cup that will tell you not only are you drinking a beer, but it's a Heineken, and man, have you had a lot of "calories" tonight.

For $199, you too can have a cup tell you what you're pouring into a cup and impress fellow bar patrons.

Previous stories in this series: