/ Home & Energy, Technology

Has smart tech gone silly?

smart home

From salt shakers that play music and emit mood lighting to a hob that can tell you when to flip your pancake or add veg to your dish – is the next generation of smart products totally unnecessary?

There’s a strong argument that the desktop PC is the greatest invention in mankind’s history, barring perhaps fire, the printing press and the machine that injects caramel into the middle of biscuit bars.

Before the computer, tasks such as writing letters, calculating sums, organising a schedule and keeping atop of your personal finances all had to be done by hand. Computers are essentially a thousand ‘dumb’ technologies ‘smartened’ up and rolled into one.

And I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that the smartphone is a pretty big deal, too. No more memorising numbers, forgetting when to call people, or being tethered to a landline – or even a cellular signal of any sort. The telephone as it was known 50 years ago is all but obsolete, and, to my mind, that’s a good thing.

But does everything need to be smartened up? Cars will be the next to take the plunge, with fully automated self-driving models to become mainstream in the next 10 years or so. Safety is paramount, but there’s no denying that the pleasure (and skill) of driving will be lost when the big switchover comes. It’s a mixed bag, for sure, although an understandable and inevitable change.

But what about your kitchen hob? Or a salt shaker. Ever felt the need for those to be computer-integrated? If you’re one of the few people inexplicably nodding your head then I have some excellent news for you. If you’re sat in bemusement, I’m afraid you might not like what’s about to come.

Silly seasoning?

SMALT’ is the ‘world’s first interactive centrepiece and smart salt dispenser’. That is to say, it’s a robotic salt shaker that you can control via an app on your smartphone or with Amazon Echo. It also functions as a Bluetooth speaker and emits mood lighting, too. And, we should stress, it’s 100% real. Oh, and it can’t actually grind salt.

The idea is that by using the app rather than haphazardly sprinkling salt all over your meal it can help monitor your salt intake. You can choose how much it administers, such as a ‘pinch’ or ‘shake’, or even a precise measurement if you’re the sort who knows to what degree their meal should be seasoned.

I should emphasise, once again, that SMALT can’t actually grind salt. You simply load your regular table salt in to it and make do. ‘Shaker’ may be something of a misnomer as well, as it’s actually unclear as to whether or not you can even use it as a rudimentary manual dispenser should its rechargeable battery run out.

Then there’s the slightly (and only slightly) less ridiculous Tasty One Top. It’s a smart induction hob that sits atop your kitchen counter and connects with a recipe app to ensure that temperature, power and cooking time are adjusted automatically to give you the perfect meal every time. It’s made by monolithic content-aggregating website BuzzFeed.

The future is now, ladies and gentlemen. The only question is: does it actually have anything useful to offer?

Have you spotted any smart tech that borders on the ridiculous? Or do think more products should be smart? What smart gadget would you invent to make your life easier?

Comments
Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Need is dictated by necessity the government is putting everything on-line , banks are on-line, you communicate with utility companies, supermarkets etc on-line, you buy on-line /sell on-line . What was once a novelty is now an essential but that doesn’t apply to the IoT -Internet of Things which is now big business for hackers- info gatherers – your government -third party advertising all to make money at your expense . Daily I get emails from various technical websites on this or that digital essential /non-essential domestic item that has been hacked . I have posted at length the number of ways you are spied upon and all those novelty digital items with Bluetooth etc with acknowledged dire security protection just make the publics personal secrets open-house to all . Of course out will come the- if you have nothing to hide brigade but do you want all your intimate moments with your wife recorded , analyzed and you “love ” rating published along with what breakfast cereal you eat how much you drink/smoke etc ? There is one advantage if they hear the sound of you dropping dead that means no more post from those vultures of death and big profit death “policy ” companies – their policy being pay for life and receive nothing , stop paying no refund ,high loss of total fund due to inflation etc. OF coarse most will ignore this advice as its – your neighbour has bought one so are you buying one “loser ” ? and look how shiny it is . Advertising has this country sown up.

Profile photo of DerekP
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Silly – perhaps not.

Superfluous – certainly.

Member
bishbut says:
19 August 2017

Of course it has ! Manufacturers need gimmicks to sell things so keep coming up with new ones to tempt fools with more money than sense to buy unnecessary things and the fool’s always do they buy things they do not need just to say they have the latest thing ????

Profile photo of DerekP
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I think the technical term for “fools with more money than sense to buy unnecessary things” is “consumers” 😉

Profile photo of Ian
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😂

Profile photo of Ian
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If we’re talking about the world’s greatest inventions I’d probably start with the Wheel, although it did need someone to invent a flat surface to go with it (not many wheels in nature). The Lever probably qualifies, too, without which we’d almost certainly not have had the Henges, Pyramids or any other large constructions. That brings in the Pulley system, then we have building done. Oh – and I nearly forgot the Nail.

Not sure Fire qualifies as an invention as such, since it was probably more of an unhappy accident of nature. But you could argue the same for the lever, I suppose. Or not. Rambling mode on

The magnetic Compass and Glass were, however, and when they invented lenses it really made a huge difference to the world’s greatest minds. Helped them create Gunpowder, which is probably up there as one of the greatest.

But we’ve moved into an era when the anticipation of untold wealth is leading to inventions in search of a purpose. Some hit it lucky, like the inventor of the humble Zip – Gideon Sundback. And the paper clip was very useful at one point in time.

Living in an area with no mobile signals whatsoever (that’s mountains for you) I don’t see the mobile ‘phone as a great invention; in fact, rather intrusive and, for many people, rather tying.

But I would place the harnessing of electricity as one of the greatest things the human race has achieved. It gives rise to something new almost every minute of every day, including the annoying mobile ‘phone ring tones that exert a mysterious force on their owners to suddenly start speaking VERY LOUDLY on quiet train carriages.

But the greatest invention? How about the internet?

Interesting topic.

Profile photo of DerekP
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“But the greatest invention? How about the internet?”

How about agriculture?

Profile photo of Ian
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Not sure whether growing stuff can strictly be classed as an ‘invention’, Derek. More of an evolution, I suspect. People gradually became better at increasing crop yields and managing animals and crops. Now – the Tractor and Combine: they were inventions.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Unless your name is Monsanto Ian -GMO – patented in the USA -Devil Food – now owned by the German successor to I.G..Farben – Beyer – “chemicals for you ” Long list of patents backed up by the US government with force in the USA . Has put many small US farmers out of business due to their seeds falling on their land and then being sued .

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I think agriculture – plant and animal breeding – can be seen as a great invention that allowed the human race to expand. We aren’t on our own though; leafcutter ants cultivate fungus. Perhaps a good job they haven’t yet got round to inventing the wheel and computers.

Profile photo of Ian
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More of an evolved discovery than an invention, I think. Pedantic, I know…

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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You could then say – axles are an evolved discovery of the wheel then Ian .

Profile photo of Ian
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Indeed; the invention was the wheel itself. Although I imagine axles followed pretty swiftly, if not almost simultaneously.

I think an invention – at least, in the sense in which we’re discussing it here – has to be something never seen before. That’s why I don’t think fire was an invention. It certainly led to a lot, but it was more of a discovery. Harnessing it, however, as in something like a Bessemer converter for instance, was an invention.

Profile photo of DerekP
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“There’s a strong argument that the desktop PC is the greatest invention in mankind’s history” ???

Ok Callum, assuming that is so, please would you summarise it for us, with supporting evidence, ideally in no more than six sentences?

Profile photo of wavechange
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As I have mentioned before, I am not an early adopter of technology but I enjoy playing with new toys when visiting friends and family. Behind the pointless gadget, there may be worthwhile ingenuity that could prove useful for more serious purposes. Time will tell, but today’s popular products were probably ridiculed.

When I think of silly tech, I remember the Binatone toilet roll holder that incorporated a radio, which I spotted in a magazine back in the late 60s or early 70s.. I never saw one but if anyone bought one it may now be collectible. A modern version might communicate wirelessly with a store cupboard and if appropriate, add toilet rolls to the online shopping list.

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Surely, a modern version of the toilet roll would incorporate an automated Amazon Andrex* Dash button and place the order for you. (I wonder if Amazon Prime drivers will install?)

* Other brands of toilet paper available – this is just an illustration of where we are going.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Christmas and birthdays are popular times for giving and receiving presents that the recipient may think are a bit silly.

When moving home I found something grandly called “The Ultimate Relaxation Cushion, with sound therapy”. “Use as a massaging neck support or simply lie back and relax with the sounds of nature.” It had been consigned to the back of a cupboard after removing the batteries, which were put to good use. It had been a Christmas present from one of my neighbours. I wonder if Boots would like it back.

Another Christmas present from the same neighbours was a Science Museum coin sorter. My initial impression was that it was another unnecessary bit of junk, but my view changed when it was my turn to deal with all the change collected at charity events. First impressions can sometimes be wrong.

Profile photo of Hannah Burke
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Agreed – I could not understand the appeal of gadgets like Amazon Echo given that I’ve never even used (or seen the point of) Siri on my phone, however having seen the way others have used it and the ways it’s come in handy for them, I’m beginning to see the appeal! Still not something I can see myself buying any time soon, but isn’t it funny how easy it is to buy into these ‘must have’ products…

Profile photo of VynorHill
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If they sell, then the gadgets will make money for their makers and inventors, if not it is either because the public have no money to splash on such items, or they are seen to be unnecessary to their life styles. I would be sad if manufacturers wasted raw materials and labour on making silly gadgets that no one wanted. It is the classic create a need and sell the solution syndrome. I wonder how many folk sprinkle powder on their carpets in order to vacuum it up again? How many of us buy an additional stain remover because they don’t believe that their washing powder works any more? How many of the two major voice activated house systems are in use, controlling entertainment, doing the shopping and eves dropping?
I had a short story somewhere, I forget the author, where the utopian city gradually crumbles and things begin to malfunction. Eventually someone discovers a new, natural life in the deserted countryside and the first beginnings of a simple existence commence as the city self destructs.

Profile photo of wavechange
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In a discussion about washing machines we were told that some people avoid biological washing powder (no enzymes) but add stain remover (Vanish?) which contains enzymes.

Profile photo of Dean Samways
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I may be guilty of this… 🙄

Profile photo of Ian
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Thinking about the way modern technology has gone, I wonder if a similar process took place when the wheel was first invented?
“Okay – the round one seems fine. Hows about we try this octagonal shape now? Save things rolling off on their own.”
“Triangle would do that better”.
“Oh, yeah…”

Profile photo of wavechange
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The challenge is to design wheels that change their shape from circular to triangular. Impressive but maybe not silly.

Profile photo of Ian
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I seem to recall there is a micro-organism that has wheels.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Maglev is the future.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m not quite sure what you mean Ian, but the rotation of flagella and the bacterial growth cycle are well known.

Profile photo of Ian
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Interesting.

Profile photo of Beryl
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Some organisms such as The Pangolin, Manis temminckii, use rolling back as a means of locomotion, effectively turning themselves into a wheel but apparently this does not constitute the use of a wheel as the organism doesn’t employ separate parts which rotate independently.

http://www.en.m.wikipedia.com – Rotating locomotion in living systems, has a lovely illustrated model of the bacterial flagellum.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Wheels require bearings to work well. I don’t know if nature has created anything that resembles a roller or ball bearing – has it? It seems to stick at cartilage. Perhaps if we had self aligning bearings in our knees and hips they might last longer. And if the creator had thought about spares and repairabilty…….. Some animals can grow another limb; why were we left out?

I’ve only replied to comments, and then happened to lookeat the heading. “mart-tech-gone-mad-smalt-salt-shaker-tasty-one-top-induction-hob-buzzfeed”. Perhaps this is why Convos often go off topic? What have wheels got to do with this topic? To the Lobby…….:-)

Profile photo of DerekP
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“Ok, if you’re so clever, you tell us what colour it should be.” 😉 😀 🙂

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Tartan ? ( after a wee doech an doris )- Harry Lauder the more he got the more he repeated it.

Profile photo of Dean Samways
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For my money, VR will be seen as silly tech for quite some time to come. I can’t see the majority of households getting behind the idea of this very individual form of entertainment any time soon. Google Glass was deemed too silly for these times by its own manufacturer but then Snap released their own glasses (https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/snapchat-spectacles-camera-photo-video/). Now Google Glass is making a comeback (http://fortune.com/2017/07/18/alphabet-google-glass-comeback/). For me, I was relieved to have moved into my new flat to find a cooker that has three settings (defrost, grill, fan oven) and a temperature dial. Anything else is the epitome of silly tech.

Profile photo of Ian
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Where I suspect VR will score will be in the ER field – Enhanced Reality. Thinking about your cooker, wearing some form of Googly glasses that were able to overlay the setting controls on your appliance and then allow you to adjust them, simply by touching their virtual presence could be rather nice. Bit like HUDs in aircraft but with interactional aspects .

Profile photo of wavechange
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I looked up the ‘SMALT’ smart salt dispenser mentioned by Dean and it isn’t even available yet.

I used to have a salt and pepper grinder where the top was turned one way for salt and the other for pepper. The simple mechanism could be seen through the transparent plastic, making it of educational value.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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Can smart tech tell you when you’re hungry as well?

Profile photo of wavechange
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There might be a possibility if it can listen to your stomach rumbling.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Has smart tech gone silly not according to the latest email I have received . While an Israeli company -Cellibrite (get it ?~ but not for those at the end of it ) has cracked iPhones for various governments that ever resourceful Land of Built to a Price has not let me down again .They have produced a $500 unit that can crack ALL iPhone passwords on iPhone/6/7 -3 at a time , its being shown working on You Tube and can be bought online I wont name it for obvious reasons .

Profile photo of Scrimshaw
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The intelligent hob is a worthwhile idea. I have been looking for a kitchen timer that can be programmed for w series of unequal intervals to prompt the start of different elements in a recipe, but haven’t found one yet. This hob appears to do just that, as well as doing the cooking

Profile photo of Paul
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test

Profile photo of Dean Samways
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Tick!

Profile photo of Ian
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Hi, Paul:-) Thanks for sorting out the synchronization issue.

Profile photo of Paul
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You’re welcome, Ian.