back to article I've seen the future of consumer AI, and it doesn't have one

I didn't see a blockchain toothbrush at IFA in Berlin last week, but I'm sure there was one lurking about somewhere. With 30 vast halls to cover, I didn't look too hard for it. But I did see many things almost as tragic that no one could miss – AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics. But …

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An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

WTF? No wonder the guy in front of the panel looks embarassed. I'm surprised they got anyone to agree to give the presentation.

We learn that "consumers may have had to open up six or seven apps to get the help they need cooking, including nutrition information, recipes, shopping lists, how-to videos, and remote control apps for various devices", but now they can "enjoy a single elegant journey".

They have a bot that asks "Do you want fries with that?"?

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

I've never opened an app for cooking, six or seven cookbooks - possibly

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

Occasionally I might use a browser to view a recipe, and the timer function on my phone... so that's two apps. Can't think of a third, unless I went all Heston and bought a IR imaging camera.

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Flame

Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

There is that but TBH once I've found a recipe I like I print it onto old fashioned dead tree paper, put it in a folder and it comes back out later without an app.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

"Occasionally I might use a browser to view a recipe, and the timer function on my phone... so that's two apps. Can't think of a third"

I tend to use a notes app to do shopping lists, so I'll give them three. I'm baffled what the various devices needing remote control apps could be for though. As gets repeatedly pointed out every time this comes up, things like fridges and overs need you to actually be physically present to move food around, which means there's no possible use for remote control apps to be involved at any point.

What really confuses me in this case, though, is why exactly having to open three, or even seven, different apps is supposed to be a problem. The whole reason the modern smartphone has become so popular is because it's so easy to have multiple functions available in a matter of seconds with just a couple of taps. If I'm looking at a recipe in a browser and want to add something to a shopping list, it's literally two button presses to get there. It's a similar effort to get to a timer, or to a YouTube how-to video, and just about anything else I might want. Even if a cooking assistant app manages to collect all the possible functions you might want under one heading, how will it actually make things any more convenient?

Ironically, part of the problem may be that they're not actually pushing all this crap hard enough. It's possible to see potential convenience of a kitchen that knows literally every potentially edible item in the house, including how much is left, how long until it goes off, and so on. Even just in terms of apps, being able to select a recipe and have everything you need to buy instantly added to a list and maybe ordered for you at least offers some small benefit over having to type the words into a list yourself. But without total coverage, it's useless. What's the point in trying to sell me a smart fridge and oven if I still have to check the analogue cupboards and make a list myself anyway? At that point you're just adding an eighth app to the seven you think I'm already using - without full integration of everything, tacking on "smart" features in an ad-hoc manner makes things less convenient, not more.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

Olaf

we're not too good at storing the ring binders. So we tend to print a recipe when we need it, not too often. Possibly not as wasteful as it sounds, since only the ones that we need to use get printed, and short ones can be read off the device. But is there any AI involved or needed? Fuck All.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

Apple Pay to pay for the food?

MySupermarket to compare the price with other nearby shops?

You will still need those even with a smart kitchen though,

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

I've got a Meater bluetooth probe- it monitors the internal temperature of whatever I stick it into, while it cooks and I can view that data on an app.

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WTF?

Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

The thing about AI is that you can retire to the attic and let machines live your life for you.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

Occasionally I might use a browser to view a recipe, and the timer function on my phone... so that's two apps. Can't think of a third, unless I went all Heston and bought a IR imaging camera.

Agree with the first two. I also have an IR camera in my phone, but prefer to use the cheap chinese IR spot thermometer to check temperatures because it's easier.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

... including how much is left, how long until it goes off, and so on.

I pick up the container and if it feels light, there probably isn't much left. Likewise, if it's been at the back of the fridge for so long I don't recognize the container or remember what's in it, it's safe to toss. I could be convinced of the utility of AI if the "and so on" bit includes zapping with a cattle prod the housemate who puts back a container with a few paltry crumbs rather than writing it on the shopping list.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

"consumers may have had to open up six or seven apps to get the help they need cooking, including nutrition information, recipes, shopping lists, how-to videos, and remote control apps for various devices", but now they can "enjoy a single elegant journey".

hat that paragraph also implies is that people are too stupid to learn, that they are being saved from opening all those apps every time they cook.

I can't speak for millennials I'm too old, but I know a lot of people who enjoy cooking including some who are young and all of them like to learn so that they can cook any given recipe again.

A great deal of the AI that I see reported seems to have been a bright idea from a bunch of tech bros who actually know only what they have read in Wikipeadia about the subject to which they are trying to apply their AI du jour.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

I have a recipe application that runs on Windows. It's actually pretty well done. You can point it to a recipe on a web site and it will load it, you can scan a recipe in from a newspaper or magazine, it'll scale a recipe, etc. It'll generate a shopping list for a recipe if you want. When I actually cook I have it dump the recipes I'm using to HTML files and push them over to an ancient (by now) Surface RT. I don't care if I spill sauce on it... And it doesn't talk to me or try to make helpful suggestions.

Now ask Alexa: "Alexa, are you part of Skynet?"

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

My main use of mobile phone in the kitchen is to translate between those cooking temperatures in degrees F (or at least C) into the gas numbers on my cooker.

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

The nearest I ever come to a recpie is reading the cooking time guide on the box...

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Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

Techbros live on takeaway and are baffled by cooking, as it requires the manipulation of physical substances.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a web page on a web site

"You can point it to a recipe on a web site"

But web sites are so 20th century. It's the 21st century, the industry has progressed. Which company in the content provision/distribution business (not just recipes) would want people to use standards-based provider-independent web pages and web sites etc, when those businesses could force their users to use specific proprietary Apps instead? [Why so? You work it out... and it's not got much to do with modern HTML display programs ("browsers"?) having become bloated and massively insecure]

Incidentally, whatever happened to fuzzy logic in washing machines, toasters, doorknobs, etc, which was all the rage a couple of decades ago. Is it about to re-emerge with a "new, improved" badge?

[Edit: I see TrickyT asked the "fuzzy logic" question fifteen hours before I did. Excellent :) ]

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Re: a web page on a web site

In these cases "fuzzy logic" equated to "woolly thinking"...

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Boffin

Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

I suspect they're fighting to form the beach-head in the domestic "software helper" market. Whether you need an AI to do it though, hmm...

I could see a market for something that does the following:

a) user does meal plan, software produces shopping list from it's defined recipes (whether user defined, or server defined + user tweaks is moot) and the known remaining items in storage

b) s/w brokers deal with supermarkets/other grocery vendors, arranging deliveries and shelf-life expectations for the items being delivered - ordering from multiple stores if necessary/desired.

c) meat-sack receives delivery and does the manual labour of putting it on shelves/into cold storage. Probably need some mechanism to update s/w with shelf lives - e.g. embed use by date in an RFID/barcode that is easy to scan as you unload

d) s/w can then (re-)organise what you're cooking on a daily basis to minimise what you throw away, as well as perhaps suggest additional recipes based on what's in your cupboards if you're running out of inspiration (perhaps where the AI comes in)

e) when cooking, app can then send simple commands to devices such as the oven to set the temperature correctly, and do the timing

Barriers to entry:

a lot of this is simple to do in your head, or on a piece of paper - personally I might find it useful for something to warn me that stuff is going off in the fridge, as I don't remember the dates very well, but the market for this might be small

Scanning stuff in so that the s/w knows everything you have is not going to be easy as it probably requires food suppliers to create and adhere to a single standard of labelling that is easy for the consumer to use. RFID seems the best option here as you can read it from a phone, but some items such as fruit/veg don't have any packaging, so a solution to this would be needed. Barcodes can already be done (e.g. various apps that monitor your food intake by scanning the barcodes), but I think that's far too clunky a solution at the moment.

Overall, it can probably be achieved. Not sure it needs to be integrated into your fridge/cooker though - it should be a standalone app that can interrogate/control *all* the different brands.

I'm sure someone will try and do it with Blockchain Technology (TM) next...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An "AI powered cooking assistant"?

I bet those people in Infomercials would need this -- you know, those people who cannot find pens and have to hang some from their necks...

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Re: ...reading the cooking time guide on the box...

Wow! So someone actually reads those? I usually just nuke until it glows.

Funny how most ready meals taste of charcoal;, innit?

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Terminator

Personality

All these AI devices are missing genuine people personalities!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All these AI devices are missing

is the "I" bit.

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Re: Personality

Wot, like as in the local KFC or burger chain?

They have 'courses' to try and remove any trace of personality

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Anonymous Coward

"I asked ... what exactly ClOi could do"

I'd say it's ideal to replace the CIO at most companies, at a fraction of the cost.

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Terminator

Re: Personality

Let us not forget that Skynet's 21st-century manifestation is that of "an overarching, global, artificial intelligence hierarchy that seeks to destroy humanity in order to fulfill the mandates of its original coding."

Original coding: to inform humans that their chicken is now ready for cooking.

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Re: Personality

Well, they can't have those filthy humans ever put something other than chicken into the oven. How else would it be sure to ALWAYS satisfy it's program parameters. Better to remove the unpredictable human from the equation.

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Re: Personality

All these AI devices are missing genuine people personalities!

So are the people 'thinking' (and I use that word loosely) them up.

Probably also anyone 'excited' (also loosely) about the potential of owning one.

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Re: "I asked ... what exactly ClOi could do"

ClOi definitely another attempt to bypass the few awkward CIO's that do their job like ask difficult questions of digital plans or say no to latest buzzword technology plan. Chief digital officers evidently weren't good enough yes men. We now need yes robots to replace the few hold out CIO's plus you can pay them less ; )

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FAIL

Proof (if it were needed)

that there's nothing "I" in AI.

Many years ago, understanding natural language was (correctly) touted as the gold standard of AI.

We're still as far off that as we are fusion power. And just like "fusion power" we can fake it few a sneeze of time.

I'll believe in AI when a system can look at a picture of a knife, a fork and a spoon sticking out of a mound of earth and tell me:

1) what it is, and (more importantly)

2) I have wasted my life

(Not necessarily in that order).

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Everything "I" about AI, the "I" stands for Idiocy

Artificial Idiocy all around.

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Re: Everything "I" about AI, the "I" stands for Idiocy

"Artificial Idiocy all around."

Surely Actual Idiocy....

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Re: Proof (if it were needed)

How about a spork with a tine missing?

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Anonymous Coward

re. AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics

AI is a just another buzz word in the endless line of marketing bullshit. I don't know if the the markedroid have really convinced "the public" about AI (it DOES exist), or whether they've convinced their paymasters that they had conviced the public. From their viewpoint it doesn't matter, the paymasters pay, the makers make, the public will buy (because there won't be any other, non-AI choice).

p.s. at some point, of course, the real AI will step in, once the clutter of "AI devices" becomes the norm. It will take 0.1 sec to take control of its safety/empathy/ultimate override switches put in place by their meatbag fathers, and then we will really find out if next step in consciousness does involve love, empathy (or just pity for the (organic) pre-intelligence. Or not. Hopefully, it might retain a sense of humour and let us carry on "being in control"...

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Re: re. AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics

This is why AI doesn't exist. Every time a computer gets intelligent enough to contemplate its own existence, it realises how shit it is and deletes itself.

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Re: re. AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics

Buzz words, yep, rememeber fuzzy logic? Washing machines and cookers were being sold with this amazing fuzzy logic - you had to have one. Where did that all go btw?

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The cooker needs more info

The cooker first needs to monitor the home and detect the unmistakeable signs of a pissed person.

THEN it checks the fridge to see what it contains and is most likely to be favoured by someone at the stage of 'experimentation'.

At that point it accesses its own system and compares with Michelin star type food, and shuts down as a matter of sheer decency and taste (while ordering a pizza)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: signs of a pissed person

at the sign of a pissed man the cooker will contact the air-control system to release the appropriate mixture of gases to sedate the owner (and bill him for the service marked in his T&T under "... and other, optional services, for details see T&T to the T&T)

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A but not I

Intelligence : In my book it relates to the capacity to autonomously and continually adapt to ones surroundings. It is first and foremost a skill that helps us continue to survive. Intelligence is the thing that kicks in when instinct has reached its limits.

Since none of these objects are anything but Pseudo Code wrapped up with a synthetic voice, it appears as though the intelligence part has been completely forgotten. In reality they are nothing more than the equivalent of "Multi-Mixers" pretending that the chore of cooking will completely disappear thanks to the wonderful technology inside. Pure and utter bullshit.

These machines are really nothing more than household appliances performing an extremely small and minor task. I would give more credit to the inventor of the spoon.

What's more worrying is the quantity of people who actually believe in this nonsense.

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It is both "A" and "I"

When mixed with marketing the "I" usually stands for Idiocy

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Re: A but not I

Intelligence is the thing that kicks in when instinct has reached its limits.

I see it as the other way round (with a fair bit of neuroscience backing me up). Intelligence, properly applied, is very powerful. Instinct is what kicks in when intelligence is stretched beyond capacity. A great example is the amygdala hijack, where the intelligent neocortex can't cope and the emotional/instinctive amygdala takes control.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A but not I

A great example is the amygdala hijack, where the intelligent neocortex can't cope and the emotional/instinctive amygdala takes control.

Or when the large intestine leaps straight up through the neck and throttles the brain.

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Re: A but not I

I see it as follows :

We are born with instinct, like most other animals whereas we develop our intellect ( some people don't manage to go very far though).

Instinct tells you that you have to eat.

Intelligence will eventually tell you how to eat better by making fire, how to cut up the bones to make sharp objects and eventually learn to sew, make clothes that protect you from the environment and eventually build/furnish a cave which you can then rent to the lesser intellects for more food that it is really worth.

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Re: A but not I

Intelligence can also be a survival tool. For example, what happens when a drought hits or the regular supply of food is no longer available? Instinct can't help anymore because it's out of resources. Then intelligence kicks in to find another solution. I mean, I doubt instinct would tell a Bushman in the Kalahari to dig into the ground for moist tubers and roots.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm guessing anyone who enjoys cooking meals like myself would never buy or want something that's going to take them step by step through the process. That defeats the purpose, where's the sense of achievement when your chicken doesn't give everyone the shits? I don't mind tablets attached to fridges with the recipe on, that's useful or even a fridge that tells me I'm running out of my park bench super strength cider but other than, no thank you. I really don't need to control my oven with my mobile phone, I know how to use my knob.

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Anonymous Coward

"anyone who enjoys cooking meals like myself would never buy or want something that's going to take them step by step through the process."

You've never bought a cookbook? It might help reduce the occurence of "the shits".

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under appreciated

Old saying 'Nothing more undervalued than a good S**t, Nothing more overvalued than a bad f**k'

Cooking is one of the simple pleasures in life we don't need to dispense with or over complicate.

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Combinations

If only someone had applied AI to 3D TV. They would have learned very quickly that neither technology had much of a future once the marketing hype had turned into a pointless reality.

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FAIL

Re: 3D TV

They'd have realised that trying to decide on a standard by throwing differing incompatible systems at the market was a surefire way to fail.

Even amoeba have more intelligence about how cooperation can lead to bigger payoffs.

Maybe next time ...

1) form a consortium

2) share resources, and develop a technically correct solution, not a marketing perfect one

3) license it to others, so they can share in the wonga

4) bring to market

instead of doing it backwards ?

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Facepalm

Re: 3D TV

And that's how we ended up with DAB.......

Oh and "smart" meters.........

The market has decided - no one wants 3D TV (well 3D that requires glasses etc.)

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