When mastered, chopsticks are the most pleasurable way to eat many foods, allowing you to gently slurp noodles, or drop sashimi into your mouth, without the metallic surface area of a spoon or fork dividing your food from your tongue. For billions of people across Asia, they’re a way of life. But pinching fine grains with sticks can be difficult for an aging population–especially as the long-term use of chopsticks has been linked to higher cases of arthritis.
Now, the Japanese company Yori-So has developed an intriguing solution: magnetic chopsticks.
These are fine, reusable chopsticks that run about $60 a pop and are made of premium woods like walnut and cherry. Each stick is affixed to the other in the rear, just like any training chopsticks you’ve ever seen. The difference is that they also have tiny magnets in their tips, so as you begin to grasp a piece of food, they’ll pull together for you. They let you pinch without all the pinching.
Such a promising idea really comes down to the finest details of ergonomic execution. How did Yori-So ensure the magnet isn’t too strong or too weak? What would happen if your tongue got caught in the middle? While the correct amount of pinch will probably differ for each user, Design Milk tried a pair out and found they operated as advertised.
That makes these chopsticks a quietly exciting product. Yes, they seem superb for an aging population that wants to keep slurping their noodles rather than eating them with a fork. But the simple pinching also makes them a suitable pair of chopsticks for that person in your life who hasn’t mastered them yet. As such, they’re a superb proof point of some of the core assumptions behind inclusive and universal design–that when you solve a particular problem for a few people, you can actually design a product that’s better for everyone.