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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Make it About the Customer

In the NYT Magazine: Faster Slow Food, by Mark Bittman. I read his blog. As a foodie and cook myself and a rampant technologist, this brings my two great obsessions together. Its also about online shopping and foodie robotics ...

. ' ... I’m not talking about science-fiction fantasies, like a food-on-demand machine: punch a button labeled “Caesar salad” or “ice-cream sundae,” and the machine fulfills your wish by assembling your order from molecules. (Incredibly, there has not been much progress on this lately.) More realistic, if barely, is the truly automatic, robotic, voice-operated food chopper. (“Remove carrot from fridge, please, peel, chop, thank you very much.”) We seem no closer to truly helpful robots than we were when I used to crank a toy version of Robby around my bedroom.

That’s why, to focus on things that could happen in our lifetimes, we should take a look at improving online grocery shopping. The one time I tried shopping online I was sent a free watermelon — how does that happen? — but that didn’t make up for the even-less-than-supermarket quality of the food. This is my fantasy about virtual grocery shopping: that you could ask and be told the provenance and ingredients of any product you look at in your Web browser. You could specify, for example, “wild, never-frozen seafood” or “organic, local broccoli.” ... '

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