Alexa, let’s have Pancetta Chicken for dinner.

Last month, publisher Hearst expanded its Amazon Echo- and Spot-enabled Good Housekeeping skill to include connected recipes. Dubbed Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, the skill provides simple “meal ideas” that can be thrown together in 30 minutes or less. The recipes will be curated by Susan Westmoreland, food director of Good Housekeeping, and, in addition to being speedy, are said to be easy to execute.

Previously, the Good Housekeeping skill only included step-by-step advice to remove stains. (Don’t worry—it can still help you get out that wine spill from your carpet.)

With the Good Housekeeping skill, users can select a recipe based on a photo and short description (or tell Alexa to do it for them). The smart display then provides a step-by-step guide through the recipe. Users can swipe around to see more recipes, skip ahead in the steps, and reference the ingredients. They can also use voice commands like “Alexa, tell Good Housekeeping to continue” if they want to move forward in the recipe but don’t want to touch the screen with, say, raw chicken hands.

Hearst’s expansion into recipes isn’t exactly surprising. At the end of 2016, the media company took a big leap into the realms of AI and AR by establishing the Native and Emerging Technologies (NET) group, which focuses heavily on voice-activated experiences for virtual assistants and smartphones.

This new skill speaks (literally) towards the growing role of voice assistants in the connected household, and the kitchen in particular. “We’re raising the stakes from what a user can expect [in terms of] information and utility from these devices,” Chris Papaleo, executive director of emerging technology at Hearst, told AdWeek. Which is something we’ve predicted but haven’t seen developed in as big a way as we’d thought—yet.

Photo: AdWeek

It also brings us one step closer to the integration of recipes (and other food media) and AI-enabled voice technology.

We’ve seen a voice-enabled smart kitchen assistant before with Freshub, which lets users add items to their shopping carts using voice commands. Then, at last year’s Smart Kitchen Summit, Emma Persky, who runs point on the Google Assistant’s guided cooking team, talked about Google’s work combining recipe content with their voice-enabled AI platform by offering video aids for recipe steps (say, sautéeing an onion). And Amazon’s 2016 partnership with AllRecipes allowed users to access voice-guided cooking instructions of their 60,000-strong recipe database.

But by combining recipes on a visual display with voice-enabled controls—albeit simplistic ones like telling it to move to the next step—this new skill from Good Housekeeping is the first time that virtual assistants have really entered the hands-free recipes zone in a synched-up visual and auditory way. While the Google Assistant can show you a video of how to sauté an onion if you’re stuck, it doesn’t have a connected visual element that takes you through each step of the recipe, since it relies almost entirely on voice guidance. This is nice since you don’t have to add another piece of equipment to your virtual assistant lineup, but not as helpful when you’re wondering how small the recipe wants you to dice your pancetta.

With this new skill, Hearst is betting on more voice assistants expanding into smart displays and a corresponding need for more visual content in the sphere. As the number and popularity of voice assistants grow and become a more commonplace part of consumers’ homes, I imagine we’ll see a lot more skills aimed at facilitating the home cooking process, from expanded shoppable recipe applications to visual cooking aids.

As of now, the Test Kitchen skill doesn’t have a sponsor. But with so many large companies trying to carve out a space in the trending foodtech world, it seems only a matter of time before a big-name recipe site or even CPG brand (who have been trying to get into foodtech in any way they can) snags the title.

The success (or lack thereof) of this skill could indicate where we are in that process.


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