Hey, parents: Having trouble convincing your kids to wash their hands before eating? Then hie thee the Internet and order a crateload of SquidSoap — the first soap designed, as per their corporate slogan, to “train tomorrow’s great hand washers.”

It works like this: There’s this totally awesome liquid-soap dispenser encircled by an art-deco squid. On top of the pump handle there’s an ink-dispensing dot. Thus, as the corporate web site explains:

SquidSoap works by applying a small ink mark on a person’s hand when they press the pump to dispense the soap. The ink is designed to wash off after the hands are washed for about 15-20 seconds, which is the time recommended by most doctors. SquidSoap is lots of fun for kids, since they love to get marked. It makes handwashing more like a game.

And, as the company notes, handwashing is scientifically proven to reduce illness in children — indeed, one study found that children who wash their hands at least four times a day miss 30% less school than those who don’t.

A new piece of industrial design, inspired by squid, utilizing game-like principles, and created to address a clinically quantified medical problem? I think I may have found the Rosetta Stone that binds together all my main Collision Detection obsessions. My work here is done. The mother ship can now safely return to take me home.

By the way, do not fail to check out the video ad for SquidSoap hosted on the site — complete with beyond-excellent squid graphics, and a exasperated mom that is so TV-ad note-perfect that it teeters lovingly on the precipice of self-parody before toppling decisively over.

(Profuse thanks to Brian Gardiner and Allon Ivri for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson