We know that over half of Echos end up in the kitchen, making Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa a good option for those looking for a new-fangled way to help make food.
But what about Facebook Messenger? While we don’t have exact numbers on how many use Facebook’s communication app while in the kitchen, with over a billion downloads of the app in Google Play Store alone, my guess would be a lot.
Still, that doesn’t mean we think of Messenger as an interface to, well, our steak, but that’s exactly what ChefSteps thought when they announced they’d created a Facebook Messenger bot for the Joule.
I’d used Alexa in the past to cook with my Joule, and it worked well for things like starting a cook and checking water temperature, but I wanted to see how cooking with Facebook would go and to see if a bot of the non-voice variety was useful when preparing the nightly meal.
Here’s how it went.
First I went to the ChefSteps support page for using Messenger and tried to talk with my Joule, which I had inserted into the water with a nice ribeye. I was told I would first need to log into my ChefSteps account. Fair enough.
Once logged in, the ChefSteps Chatbot, which we’ll call Joule-bot for this post, reminded me of what I’d named it and gave a few clues about what it could do.
I decided to jump right and tell Joule-bot what I wanted to cook a steak. I got a pop-up message telling me a little about sous vide complete with a visual guide to doneness (a big focus for ChefSteps overall with their guided cooking approach for the Joule app).
As you can see above, the tone of the bot is casual but also informative. I like the ability to choose the length of cook with their visual doneness guide. This is an advantage over cooking with Alexa which (obviously) can’t show you how what a cook will look like as a voice bot.
Once I chose medium rare (you didn’t think I wanted a Trump Cook did you?), Joule-bot asked me a few more questions to understand how to go about cooking my ribeye.
Once it knew I was cooking fresh and how thick the steak was, it was able to set the temperature. As you can see, I had already started the Joule (with Alexa – meaning I technically had a battle of the bots over my evening meal), so it told me, in essence, my water was running a bit hot. The Joule, like other sous vide circulators, can adjust down as it lets the water cook and will then hold the temperature, which is what happened for my cook.
You can also see that Joule-bot told me that that it is still young and hasn’t fully matured, meaning it wouldn’t be able to send me notifications in Messenger about when things were done. This is where Joule’s native app has an advantage over the Joule-bot.
I decided I wasn’t done with Joule-bot, since I wanted to see if it could help me out with my ribeye prep and post-cook. I decided to ask it a few more questions and see how it responded.
When I asked it how to prepare steak, wondering if I could surface some of the same types of information that Joule app does with its cooking guides. While it didn’t give me the same, concise cooking guide I get within the Joule, it did give me a link which provides access to much of the same information on the ChefSteps website.
My next message confused Joule-bot a bit, mostly because I think of my language choice. I was trying to get Joule-bot to tell me something it had already done (2 hours of cook time) with a specific question about that. Instead, it guessed that I was trying to see when my Joule would ship by surfacing an FAQ question.
While the logic wasn’t perfect, I think the response was fine. Since Joule-bot lets the user give feedback, this will help refine the bot’s logic over time. It also gave me lots of options of what to do next, with links to the ChefSteps community forum, recipes and also the option to file a support ticket.
Overall, cooking with Facebook Messenger was an interesting – but for now limited – experience. Joule-bot allowed me to set temperature based on visual guidance, told me in a conversational voice when my meal would be done, and directed me to the information rich ChefSteps website when it didn’t have the answers.
What it didn’t do was provide notifications, a big difference which gives the Joule app an advantage for now. Joule-bot also didn’t have the richness of information provided by the in-app cooking guides (though, as mentioned, it did send me links to the ChefSteps website).
Compared to Alexa, Joule-bot has an advantage in the type of the information it can provide, such as visual guides around doneness. However, Alexa commands are just a little easier (what’s easier than talking?) and I could see how Alexa would be preferred over Joule-bot when I’m preparing food with my hands.
Lastly, it’s important to ask the question: is cooking with Facebook Messenger a good idea?For now, I would say the Joule app is a better experience, but over time a bot could have some advantages. Messenger’s conversation logic is very good, and those used to using chat as a way to interface with people may also find it also a good way to control their things (like the Joule). I also think as many of us tire of apps for every device, Messenger is a logical candidate to become that universal app, especially as bots become better.
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