Deciding what to cook can be frustrating and constantly looking up new recipes can be cumbersome. Additionally, the process of food preparation and measurement can be tedious and slow. The purpose of this project was to address those issues by designing an object that integrates both physical and digital components. I completed this class project with three other students.
– Create an integrated physical and digital prototype to alleviate common cooking issues
– Design the system to accommodate different user characteristics
1. Define Problem and Basic Features
The focus of this project was to create a design without a great deal of research. Therefore, many decisions were made without external user input. In the future, user feedback would be integrated into the prototype.
To start, my group defined the main problem we wanted to address. We decided to work on improving the process of choosing and then following a recipe.
Once we determined the focus, we brainstormed essential features for the system and its name. Based on those discussions, we decided to name the system CookPanion and include the following key features:
– Digital display
– Cutting surface
– Integrated scales and removable ingredient bins
– Durable, easy to clean, and modular pieces
– Entertainment capabilities
2. Initial Physical and Digital Designs
After defining the necessary features of the system, we separately sketched potential physical and digital design concepts. We then reconvened and compared our ideas. Different components from each of our solutions were integrated to create the first version of CookPanion. Figure 1 displays the first iteration of the design.
This first iteration included a screen that would assist a user choose and then follow a recipe. The side containers featured LED lighting that would progressively change to indicate how close a user is to meeting an ingredient’s weight requirement. Finally, the chopping and food preparation area would be modular and easily exchangeable.
During this stage we also created a basic wireframe of CookPanion’s digital interface. The flow featured components including: a homepage, recipe search and filtering, recipe steps, entertainment options, and navigation controls. Figure 2 demonstrates the original flow a user would follow to complete a recipe.
Figure 2. Initial Digital Interface Flow
3. Refinements and Final Implementation
The initial sketches of CookPanion’s physical features and digital interface acted as starting points for gathering feedback and creating refinements. As a group we reviewed each component of the physical design and determined improvements that could be made. For example, we realized the importance of making the screen movable so a user could tilt the display based on where he or she is standing. See Figure 3 for a series of finalized renderings of CookPanion.
Figure 3. Final Renders of CookPanion
The final renders highlight the large movable display, LED ringed measuring cups, replaceable cutting surfaces, and an integrated knife rack.
Based on the initial digital interface sketches, two main user flows and a few additional features were implemented. The two main user flows demonstrate recipe browsing, selection, and completion and the process of preparing individual ingredients. The additional features include settings, entertainment, and a virtual cooking assistant.
Figure 4 highlights the recipe selection process. The interface includes multiple filters to allow users to focus on specific preferences and dietary needs.
Figure 4. Recipe Selection
Figure 5 demonstrates how a user could launch the entertainment feature. This option was included in the interface because potential users expressed an interest in being entertained while food was being cooked.
Figure 6 shows CookPanion’s voice based cooking assistant Cooky. This feature was included because it can be difficult or messy to use a touch screen while completing food preparation. Cooky allows a user to look up information and interact with the interface without needing to touch the screen.
The last key feature of the interface is the ability to measure one ingredient using the lighted cups on the side of the device without entering the recipe flow. As a user adds ingredients to one of the containers, the interface automatically updates to display how much of the ingredient is present (see Figure 7). This reduces the time it takes to measure an ingredient and improves the recipe preparation process.
The interface also includes dedicated recipe step, media playback, and settings pages. A full interactive version of the interface can be accessed at this link.
Overall, CookPanion’s final physical and digital components integrate together to fulfill the project’s original objectives.
This project was focused on creating a physical and interactive digital prototype, but did not include much user testing and research. In the future, user testing could lead to interface improvements and new insights about the physical design’s components. CookPanion is in its early stages, but offers a unique approach to improving the recipe selection and cooking process.