What is a Taco?
Taco is an assistive tool that makes cooking preparation more accessible. It allows inexperienced home cooks and anyone with limited hand mobility to slice food consistently thinner, straighter, and safer.
Our innovation began when we met Beatrice, a talented home cook living with Parkinson’s disease. Her love for cooking was disrupted by uncontrollable, painful tremors in her hands, making food slicing challenging and unsafe. Seeing her use the device and receiving encouraging feedback, we realized we needed to make the benefits of cooking accessible to as many people as possible. We instantly became inspired to design a tool that was beautiful and celebratory in its design while avoiding the stigmatization of bespoke products.
How it Works
Two tubular guides ensure the knife follows a downwards and perpendicular cutting motion while restricting movements in the lateral direction. The design promotes controlled and guided knife movements while ensuring that all cutting motions, such as rocking, push cutting, slicing, and chopping, can be executed. The outwards curved top allows users to comfortably insert their knife as the guides converge to a narrow slit. The guides connect to a flat plate at the bottom, which slides under the cutting board for seamless integration. The extended gap between the bottom plate and the guides allows a wide range of different thickness cutting boards to work with Taco. The rubber base ensures the cutting board remains still during cutting motions. The structure is composed of 316 stainless steel for extended durability and a dishwasher-safe cleaning process.
The current version of Taco is the result of rigorous iteration and testing to find the optimal form that will improve the user’s kitchen experience the most. The user interaction of our product is critical; for this reason, tests were performed with a wide range of potential user groups, ranging from fully capable home cooks to the severely physically limited. The iteration process began with an idea of what the product could look and feel like. The prototype for this initial idea was 3D printed and passed our initial testing criteria. After testing, the prototype struggled to perform well, resulting in a redesign. Small changes were made to the overall geometry of the product, then the 3D printing and test cycles were repeated. This process continued until the current and best form of the product was identified. These small incremental design changes allowed the product to evolve to where it is now. To better understand how the product would realistically perform in a real-world environment, a prototype of this current design was made using the same material that would be used during mass-market manufacturing; kitchen-grade stainless steel. Our user groups tested the current prototype, and it became clear how much of an impact Taco can have in someone’s day-to-day life.
How Taco Is Different
As the population ages, a growing number of individuals find it difficult to retain their independence in the kitchen. Users are turning to paper cutter-type cutting boards with integrated knives to provide stability and safety while cutting food. These devices are incompatible with personal knives, and cutting boards can be hard to clean and limit the user’s range of motion. Taco works with any knife and cutting board, allowing users to cut safely with the equipment they are already comfortable using. The only constrained motion is in the lateral direction, preventing injuries but allowing taller foods to be cut and various slicing techniques to be used. The result is a less expensive, easier to clean, more versatile, and safer setup that anyone can use anywhere.
After seeing the immediate impact that Taco had on Beatrice’s ability to prepare food, it became clear that more products need to be designed with inclusivity in mind. We want to continue developing new products like Taco to improve people’s day-to-day lives. To sustain this idea, we hope to gain funding and prepare Taco for sale.