The Sugargotchi: An Embodied Digital Pet to Raise Children’s Awareness of their Dental Health and Free Sugar Consumption

Gray, Stuart; Metcalfe, Tom; Cater, Kirsten; Bennett, Peter; Bevan, Chris
ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play

The excessive consumption of free sugars – sugar added to food, drinks and existing in honey, syrup and fruit juice – are endemic to the diets of Western children and a leading factor in dental disease. Recent public health interventions and legislation have aimed to safeguard consumer health. However, children and their parents continue to face challenges in understanding the implications of product sugar content for their long-term dental health when weighed against contradictory nutritional benefits and child-friendly marketing. Building upon previous HCI research on serious play for nutritional awareness and leveraging the power of digital pets for enacting behaviour change, we introduce ‘the Sugargotchi’ an embodied digital companion to raise children’s awareness of their dental health and the adverse impacts of free sugars. This paper describes the rationale for the Sugargotchi’s development, an overview of our initial prototype, and highlights the key design challenges it faces for household and clinical adoption.