An Alexa-enabled salt shaker and automated kitchens, home voice assistants and food tracking

An Alexa-enabled salt shaker called “SMALT” is currently looking for funding on indiegogo. Although I am unsure how much sense an Alexa-enabled salt shaker makes, there are a few things I like to consider.   As a general note, I think people are confusing “Alexa” (or any other smart speaker) with devices. To me, smart homes speakers such as Alexa, are the first step towards a voice-controlled home. Therefore, I think that adding Alexa to other products makes sense only in the short term because I expect voice to become an infrastructure in our homes as essential as electricity or water. Besides that: Is SMALT pointing us in the direction of an automated kitchen? Sure, automating salt is not a gigantic field for automation, but it might be one of many products that will help us automate cooking. Nevertheless, one must consider whether automating salt intake (or whatever other small manual task) will be necessary in the future at all (it is like building a robot for washing the dishes instead of a dish washer). Are we heading into an “X with Alexa” trend (X being any product you can think of)? This reminds me of the time where we

Stuff I found interesting in CW32

Fox will show its first six-second TV ad: Let’s call them “Snapchat-ads”. I am unsure if they might be even too short for TV ads. Admittedly, ads interrupting watching TV is annoying, but at least the ads are entertaining (at least some of them). Not sure if consumers will consider them super irritating because they are on the one side interrupting and on the other hand not providing any “advertisement value.“ “Voice banking is coming to the forefront” (according to Business Insider). USAA is adding Alexa-based balance checking and information about spending behavior. Makes sense to me; regardless of how good looking some banking apps are (I am using N26, and their web and app-UI is pretty nice), digging into my spending behavior still requires Excel. Whereas I like analyzing that stuff, I would prefer it if somebody could tell it to me. More precisely, I would prefer someone showing it to me (inquiry can still be voice-based). On the one side there are privacy concerns (somebody overhearing it) and on the other hand I can only remember some much numbers at a time. Thus, integration into Amazon Show (and similar) would be cool. Moreover, visual representation would allow mobile

Alexa effect and smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness

While analyzing comments about Google Home shortly after its release in Germany I came across the following fascinating thought from one user: “And will users become content not knowing? (when the assistant does not have the answer to a question)? The device does not recommend any sources for further research” [1] There are two themes in this comment I find worth-exploring; criticism of the smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness and what I will call Alexa effect. Alexa effect I will define the Alexa effect as the tendency towards contentedness with nescience about a topic if information about said topic cannot be obtained immediately or easily [2] In some way, we can already observe this “not knowing phenomena” in our online and offline behavior. For example, in how we google: If it isn't on the first page of Google, it doesn't exist. — Not Will Ferrell (@itsWillyFerrell) October 27, 2013 depend on our mothers: or the Google effect. This cognitive bias refers to the phenomenon that we tend to forget information that is easily obtainable through search engines. Alexa makes us childish by asking it questions that we wouldn’t have googled [3] Looking back on my Alexa-usage I can indeed remember being “ok

The most important product feature is trust

A couple of days ago I came across an app on Producthunt which, once you scan a multiple-choice question, gives you the right answer to it — most of the time. The important part is the addition most of the time. One comment there stated that users will start second-guessing the app if it gives a wrong answer only one time. Eventually, they will stop using the app, because it makes them more work because they lost trust in the app’s ability. That made me realize, that above all the most important feature of a product is the level of trust you have in it. Some are obvious such as the breaks in your car: If you cannot trust that the breaks will work, you won’t use it, regardless of how comfortable of efficient it is. In other products you would not label it trust right away, you might call it quality, speed or reliability. However, what all these traits have in common is that they rely on the level of trust that you have towards a product. Here are hree examples: Siri: You might say that for you, Siri’s most important feature is that is reliable. However, if Siri is

Google Home’s most important feature is …surveillance

…at least according to the comments on I looked at about 180 comments (on August 10th) published below a Google Home review on the German news website This lead to 262 classifications of which eight were positive, 25 neutral, 102 negative and 126 irrelevant. Positive expressions: features, but gimmick People’s attitude towards it was positve mostly because of its features. However, some do see its potential but do not believe that it will evolve beyond a gimmick. Neutral expressions: concerns about data privacy are unjustified As seen below in the negative expressions, people were highly concerned with data privacy. However, some argued that it does not matter whether we allow Google Home to collect data in our houses, as Google (& Co.) already know everything about us through other sources. These other sources are not only the “usual suspects” (GAFA, official institutions, etc.) but also more “unobvious” instances like neighbors (?). In this context (“they already know everything”) people’s hypocrite attitude was criticized; on the one side they are against Google Home but use all kinds of other related devices and services. Negative expressions Concerns: Surveillance, social isolation, government responsibility, device ecosystem Google Home as self-imposed surveillance, connected to the