We’ve talked a lot on The Spoon about the power of the Amazon Echo in the kitchen – as a virtual sous chef, a custom bartender, a unique component of guided cooking and just a helpful assistant (Alexa, set a timer for 5 minutes!) And the power of the Echo as a frictionless controller in the smart home is evident in the myriad of skills announced from virtually every top smart home manufacturer – lights, thermostats, even locks now have limited voice control functionality with Alexa.
So it’s no surprise when one of the big players in the smart kitchen space announces plans to deepen its Echo integration, beefing up Alexa’s power as an AI assistant. ChefSteps, the Seattle-based culinary startup discussed its Amazon Echo skill for Joule, a sous vide cooker and the company’s inaugural hardware device last week at the GeekWire conference.
We covered Joule’s launch extensively, detailing ChefSteps move to give back money to backers when initial demand far exceeded their expectations and production costs were lower than expected. As the emerging sous vide trend quickly grew thanks in no small part to Joule competitors like Anova and Sansaire, Joules began shipping to eager backers and the company began talking about voice control. In an initial post about Amazon Echo, ChefSteps explained,
“ask any chef who’s ever barked “Fire!” at her line while a packed house awaited their entrees: sometimes, a cook’s best tool is her voice. That’s where Alexa comes in.”
Initially, the ChefSteps Joule skill for Echo is limited to basic, albeit helpful, functionality. Users could ask Alexa to check the status of the temperature, or set the temperature in preparation for a particular recipe, or stop the device. But ChefSteps’ co-founder Chef Chris Young discussed plans to go much further with Echo, using a deeper well of knowledge to create a true AI helper for your sous vide cooking.
Dubbed “conversational cooking,” the new Echo skill will enable home chefs to get even more help, asking Alexa to “start cooking my steak medium rare.” Joule users can give Alexa basic information, like the size of the meat and the level of doneness they’d like and Alexa will set Joule to the correct temp and cook it for the amount of time needed to accommodate. Perhaps most interestingly, Alexa will act as a customized cookbook of sorts, remembering the instructions from past recipes and storing them for future use.
In the future, Young and his team expect even cooler Alexa features like contextual recipe and cooking instructions based on time constraints and in-app food purchasing. In other words – they are just getting started.