The artifact

LG smart fridge

In 2012 the corean LG will commercialise the “Smart fridge”. This wonder of modern technology realizes the myth of the past decades: an intelligent refrigerator in the kitchen, able to solve all the housewife’s problems. The smart fridge is able to register the  grocery via barcode scanning or voice recognition, and it offers online grocery shopping directly from the refrigerator’s LCD panel or smartphone. Based on the stored ingredients and dietary directives, the smart fridge can also select recipes to be cooked into its pal, the smart hoven.

Despite this huge amount of improvements, that basically match my first ideas on intelligent kitchen appliances, the smart fridge has received kind of a cold welcome.  The main reason is that this technological monster is scaring. Nobody wants to open the door of his fridge with its user’s manual in hand. Talking to a fridge is even more creepy. It appears that the enthusiasm for new technology doesn’t always marry well usability.

The technology has to go close to the humans, not the other way around.

So, what are we missing here? Susie Steiner from the Guardian correctly states: “The only technology that will survive the furnace of the global market is intuitive technology.” In other words, the use of technology has to match the use that people already do of the tools they have, the so called artifacts. The natural way of adoption of new technologies passes through it’s integration with other existing artifacts and how, over time, it modifies their use.

This is also the reason why field research is so important: to understand how people work, and the use of artifacts in their context. Building an Artificial Intelligence is only the first step, but we believe that intelligence also means adaptability.

About Alexandre Albore

Alexandre likes to cook and to eat. After obtaining his PhD in Artificial Intelligence on Automated Planning, he now works on aerospace applications of AI. Alexandre lives actually in Toulouse, France. Google+
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