It's a well-documented fact that most adults don't drink enough water each day. Some of that can be fixed with some focus and documentation, but the easiest way to get an adult to drink enough water each day is by making it a part of their routine as a child. Getting kids to drink the right amount of water each day is incredibly important, especially when surrounded by so many other choices each day.
Bowhead Technology believes the answer to teaching kids to drink the right amount of water each day is embedding an animated pet into the side of an absurdly high-tech water bottle and turning it into a game. It's called Gululu, and for the last 10 days we've been testing this system with one of our kids to see what happens.
Gululu is a durable-looking water bottle with a small display on the front. One of several small "pets" floats around on the screen and interacts with your child as the water bottle gets used. It's happy when you take a drink, gets dizzy when you shake the bottle around, and will do tricks if you swipe your hand up and down on the two touch-sensitive stripes on either side of the bottle. As the bottle gets used over time, the pet grows and becomes more capable, encouraging the child to continue drinking from the bottle throughout the day.
By the end of the first week there was a noticeable increase in how much water she was drinking, and a lot of it had to do with wanting to interact with the pet on her bottle.
At the end of each day, the progress is stored and synced to the phone where more information is available. Parents can set school hours where the bottle can't be used as a toy but still used to track consumption, sleep mode where the screen is set to its lowest brightness to avoid distractions or accidentally waking the child, and a social system for connecting multiple kids with Gululu bottles. The social connection allows kids to see each other's scores, and makes it possible for one Gululu pet to visit another when two bottles are set next to one another.
As crazy and complicated as this bottle sounds, it works. It took three days for our test subject — she says I'm supposed to say "daughter," but whatever — to figure out the best way to get the most results out of her pet. By the end of the first week there was a noticeable increase in how much water she was drinking, and a lot of it had to do with wanting to interact with the pet on her bottle. She doesn't go anywhere without the bottle now, and is constantly aware of how much water is left in the bottle. In the brief period she's been using Gululu, she became more aware of her water intake than each of her siblings.
There are some obvious drawbacks to using something like Gululu. For starters, it's a battery-powered water bottle. While it seems like Bowhead has done a great job ruggedizing the computer inside, it's still a water bottle that needs to be charged on a regular basis. Gululu claims a full charge will last up to four days of normal use, but frequently the bottle we've been testing has needed to go back on the charger after two days. The wireless charging cradle used to keep Gululu powered is simple enough for anyone to use, and includes a small fish animation to show how close to fully charged Gululu is. It's the kind of thing you could keep on a kitchen counter and never really have to think about, but the battery could certainly be better.
Gululu is not exactly cheap, either. Bowhead's Kickstarter is asking $99 for a single bottle, available in five different colors. There's an $89 Early Bird special for those who decide they need to have one right this second, but that's still almost $100 for a water bottle being used by a child. Gululu has done a great job demonstrating just how functional the idea is, especially if you have a child who isn't drinking enough water every day. The Kickstarter is aiming to ship by September, and judging from the early kit we've been testing the company shouldn't have a lot of problem delivering a finished product by then. In the mean time, go drink more water.