David Edwards wants to change the way we eat, clean, and — recently — caff up. A Harvard professor and founder of the ArtScience labs, Edwards concocts devices that combine art and engineering to rethink some of America’s most mundane practices. AeroShot, his latest innovation, targets a species we are all quite familiar with: the college student in the basement of Bass at 1 a.m., desperately in need of a second wind.
Perhaps from his observation of sleep-deprived, time-crunched Cantabs, Edwards has developed the AeroShot breathable caffeine dispenser. For about the price of a tall Caffe Americano at Starbucks, each AeroShot is roughly the size of a tube of lipstick and contains 100 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of a large cup of coffee. One operates it like an asthma inhaler, with each puff delivering a shot of powdered, lime-flavored, caffeine. Upon hitting the tongue, the powder dissolves instantly and is immediately absorbed to deliver a quick boost of alertness.
Some see this new contraption as a novel pick-me-up, and it is part of a large “breathable” food movement — from inhalable, calorie-free chocolate to airborne vitamin supplements. With the modern surge in molecular gastronomy, this feat should come as no surprise. Here in America, we are playing with our food in weirder ways every day — watermelon foam and umami ice cream are two well-known children of food and chemistry. But this little plastic dispenser, available for $2.99 a pop, is also a testimony to the mounting chaos of daily life. Technology has rendered many of our daily motions obsolete — no more sifting through dusty bookshelves at the library; Kindle’s got you covered with a few swipes of your index finger. No more jiggling the knob on your car radio to search for your favorite morning show; there’s instantaneous online streaming.
But think back to the last time you were at the café counter. Pausing with a steaming plastic cup of the Elixir of Life in your hands, you took a few minutes to breathe, maybe even browse a few pages of our beloved campus daily. We drink coffee for a boost, to restore our mental focus so we can power through the rest of our frenetic schedules of classes, meetings and jobs. But for many of us, these moments taken to recharge are ironically the only quiet moments in our hectic day. We have a great demand for energy, and a puff is a quick and instantaneous fix. I have to wonder, though: are we really so pressed for time that we can’t stop to enjoy a cup of coffee?