John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Ooho! orbs are meant to reduce carbon emissions and plastics pollution.
In the future, rehydrating on the go might not mean chugging from a bottle, but inhaling a gelatinous, edible blob that looks like water floating on the space station.
That's the messed-up vision of the folks at London's Skipping Rocks Lab, anyway. They've devised a method for home cooks to whip up servings of water encased in algae-based gel. People consume the squishy balls by biting them and sucking out the liquid or—if they have great gag reflexes—swallowing them like oysters. (Better have a friend who knows the Heimlich present.)
The H2O orbs are called Ooho!, perhaps from the sound drinkers make when they explode and drip water on your shirt, as demonstrated in this video:
Though they might raise eyebrows, the globs have a honorable and pressing purpose: to battle the worldwide epidemic of plastic pollution. Here's a bit more about that from Ooho!'s nomination at the 2015 "Design to Improve Life" competition (apologies for the weird grammar):
When we drink bottled water we throw away plastic, [and] 80% of the bottles are not recycled..... Ooho! uses the culinary technique of sphereification, the water is encapsulated in a double gelatinous membrane. The technique consist into apply sodium alginate (E-401) from the brown algae and calcium chloride (E-509) in a concrete proportions in order to generate a gelification on the exterior of the liquid. The final package is simple, cheap (2ct/unit), resistant, hygienic, biodegradable and even eatable. Ooho! is licensed as creative commons so everyone could make them at their kitchen, modifying and innovating the "recipe."
Preparing these things at home also has a climate benefit, as it doesn't involve the fossil fuels and CO2 emissions of the bottle-manufacturing process. So there you have it: If you don't mind looking like a sea turtle feasting on jellyfish, grab your alginate and calcium salts and whip up a batch of quivering, thirst-quenching orbs today.