ChefSteps’ Huy Nguyen, Jessica Voelker and Chris Young at the company’s offices in Pike Place Market. Nat Levy / GeekWire Photo. Amazon’s digital brain Alexa is learning to cook the perfect steak.
Seattle cooking startup ChefSteps unveiled at the GeekWire Summit 2016 a new Alexa skill that can talk to the company’s Joule sous vide device . Named after the measure of heat energy, the device heats water to precise temperatures to cook meat and other food evenly over extended periods of time — using the increasingly popular sous vide cooking technique. The device is controlled by a companion smartphone app for iPhone and Android that includes recipes and videos showing various levels of doneness for meat.
Right now, Alexa can set the temperature for Joule, tell the temperature and stop the device. But soon it will be able to cook steak and other food. Users will be able to tell Alexa how big their steak is and what level of doneness they are looking for, and Alexa will set the right water temperature and cooking time for Joule. Alexa will remember cooking instructions from last time, so users can repeat previous recipes or switch them up.
With Amazon’s new emphasis on getting the hockey puck-like Echo Dot in every room of the house , the user doesn’t even have to be in the room for much of the cooking process.
“We started thinking about voice control and it’s basically like having a second set of hands in the kitchen,” said Jessica Voelker, a former food critic in Washington D.C. and now a writer for ChefSteps. “Just the same way a chef could yell out ‘fire that dish’ at a line cook, you can do that with Alexa.”
The Alexa skill was just approved this week, and the first Joule orders shipped recently. ChefSteps plans to add a lot more features and recipes to the app and Alexa skill. But for now, the company is waiting to see which features customers like most and what can be improved, Voelker said.
There was no “aha moment” when ChefSteps decided it wanted to add an Alexa skill for Joule, ChefSteps co-founder Chris Young said. It always seemed like a natural complement for the smartphone-controlled Joule, but the company was waiting for the technology to make voice control a viable option.
“These sort of conversational cooking techniques are likely to be an area we are going to continue to invest in deeply,” Young said. “There are more problems to solve, more ways we can interact with customers and give people a more human way to engage with their tools. Our real job is to put humans back at the center of the cooking experience, not sort of all having stock syndrome with tools we already have.”