Just What We Needed Dept: A Smart Cup That Tells Us When to Drink More Water

Video screen capture. Pryme Vessyl

In which yet another solution goes searching for a problem...

When does the 'quantified self' movement have its jump the shark moment? It's hard to tell, because with each new 'smart' gadget, the line between parody and actual products gets a little blurrier. But perhaps it's when our utensils and tableware start talking back to us.

I can't find any fault with the statement that we need to stay hydrated, and that drinking plenty of water everyday is a great healthy habit. Studies have shown that being even mildly dehydrated can have negative effects on our attention, our mood, and our memory, while others have shown that proper hydration is a key factor in endurance and timely recovery from physical activities, and being in a state of chronic under-hydradation has been implicated in an array of physical symptoms, from poor skin health to an underperforming immune system. But do we really need another gadget to help us drink more water?

Perhaps this is another example of just how far removed we've become from our own biological needs, and maybe there are plenty of people who no longer know when they're thirsty, and they need to be told when and how much to drink. But it might also just be clever marketing that offers the promise of 'optimal' performance through better hydration, with the perfect solution being a $100 gizmo that keeps track of your fluid intake. I'm of a mind that it's a little of both, with an extra helping of 'there's an app for that' to convince us that this product is indeed where we should throw our money.

The product in question is the cutesy-named Pryme Vessyl (because too many vowels are tragically unhip right now), a 12 oz. 'smart' cup that not only requires its own charging coaster (yet another gadget to plug in), but which also needs to connect to an app (because of course it does), which then tracks the user's fluid intake and compares it (using ... wait for it ... an algorithm) to what that particular person needs to imbibe to stay in their "Pryme."

Here's the kinda creepy product video:

According to the website, Pryme Vessyl takes into account the user's age, sex, height, weight, and amount of sleep and physical activity (presumably from a wearable health tracker, but perhaps also by manually entering this data each day) to determine what that user's "Pryme" hydration level is. And maybe that's a more accurate way of gauging a person's water needs than the standard throwaway advice to drink 8 cups a day, but as it doesn't take into account a range of other factors, such as diet, energy levels, or current state of fitness, it might not be any healthier guidance than telling someone to simply fill up a quart mason jar and drink it all three or four times a day.

Aside from the fact that this product integrates electronics and a battery (and a charger), each of which have their own amount of embodied energy, and the fact that it requires yet another plug in an electrical outlet in a world that's rapidly over-plugged, the glass, errrm, the Vessyl, only holds 12 ounces of water. That seems like quite a small quantity, considering that getting hydrated is the point of the whole thing, but maybe there's some psychological reason for that, such as the fact that it's a simple matter to drink less than a pint at a time, and therefore doing so can feel like a win. But that small size also means more trips to the faucet or water cooler to fill it up, which would seem to be less efficient overall. (The website actually says it holds 16 oz. on one page, but the product specs page states that it holds 12.2 oz.)

You can find out more about this $100 gizmo at the company website, or you can go find a quart mason jar for free and fill it up and drink it several times a day and then donate the money you saved on something really needful, such as clean water for people who are still dying of water-related diseases and poor sanitation, or a Kiva loan to help lift someone out of poverty.