Reimagining the Kitchen: Innovative Smart Mirror with Interactive Communal Cooking Classes
By Jacob Frumkin, Noam Ronen, and Alex Zhang
Problem and Solution Overview
The process of cooking at home, particularly for beginner and intermediate cooks, can often be overwhelming, isolating and stressful. This can often lead to reliance on unhealthy eating habits and expensive take-out services. Based on our research, many people find cooking more enjoyable and less intimidating when it is a social activity coupled with accessible and tailored guidance. Our solution, the “Innovative Smart Mirror with Interactive Communal Cooking Classes,” addresses this issue by integrating social engagement and tailored guidance directly into your kitchen. Our elegant smart mirror provides live, interactive sessions allowing users to connect and cook with others, as well as receive immediate guidance from built-in AI powered chef helpers or live professional chefs. Additionally, the mirror’s smart-tracking feature offers real-time feedback and adjusts to the pace of each user, making cooking a simplified, stress-free, and socially engaging activity.
Design Research Goals, Stakeholders, and Participants
Our primary goal in conducting design research was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and desires of beginner and intermediate cooks, with a particular focus on their experience with social and communal cooking as well as online cooking resources. We chose to employ a combination of focus groups and individual interviews, with the intent to gather a wide range of perspectives and experiences. These research methods might seem relatively similar, but offer distinctive insights. A focus group encourages open discussion, allowing us to understand the group dynamics in cooking experiences, which is of keen interest given our goal of positioning cooking as a communal activity. On the other hand, individual interviews offer a more personal setting that fosters in-depth exploration of each participant’s unique cooking journey. Our research involved a total of eight participants who self-identified at varying levels of cooking proficiency; from beginners who often relied on pre-made meals to intermediate cooks who occasionally attempted complicated recipes. We chose participants with varying levels of cooking experience to accurately represent our primary stakeholder group: individuals interested in enhancing their cooking abilities, reducing their reliance on ready-to-eat meals, and better integrating cooking into their lifestyles.
Design Research Results and Themes
In our research, one significant finding was the prevalent sentiment of intimidation and anxiety around cooking. Our participants expressed feelings of unease when faced with new recipes. Due to the fear of failure, such intimidation acts as a barrier to cooking more frequently, often pushing individuals towards take-out or easy-to-cook meals. Addressing this fear and making the cooking process appear less daunting emerged as a crucial aspect to incorporate in our design.
Moreover, an interesting insight revealed by our research was the overall positive attitude towards communal cooking. Despite the challenges, the majority of our participants conveyed more comfort and motivation when cooking with others. They found it to be a buffer to the stress of cooking, with the shared responsibility easing the anxiety and thus making the cooking process more enjoyable and fun. This emphasizes the potential of leveraging the social aspect of cooking in our design.
Surprisingly, while our participants heavily relied on online platforms for cooking inspiration and recipes, they expressed concerns about the reliability of these digital resources. They felt that online recipes often lacked clarity, were too complex, or didn’t offer interactivity. These factors often underlined their cooking fears, leading to avoidance of trying new recipes. Furthermore, they often mentioned feeling isolated when cooking alone using online tutorials or recipes, leaving to lazy habits, and therefore pointing to a potential design opportunity to incorporate interactive and social features in an online cooking platform.
To address the needs of our research participants, our proposed Innovative Smart Mirror with Interactive Communal Cooking Classes aims to transform cooking into a social, interactive experience. The smart mirror integrates elegantly into any kitchen, either hung on the wall or propped on a stand. Equipped with a 360-degree camera, the mirror offers interactive, step-by-step recipe guidance, a host of live and pre-recorded cooking classes, and a social networking feature where users can connect with friends where they can share recipes and classes. The Zoom-like architecture for live classes offers a synchronous cook-along experience, where participants can see other participants cooking in real-time, fostering a shared cooking experience. See Figure 1 for a reference example.
Figure 1: Concept Design of Innovative Smart Mirror with Interactive Communal Cooking Classes
Incorporating community-based learning and social interaction directly into the cooking process directly addresses the need for communal cooking expressed by our participants. The mirror can double as a platform for social interaction during the cooking process, presenting opportunities for shared cooking experiences with friends or family, even if they are geographically apart. This communal component not only reduces the fear and stress associated with cooking for beginners but also enhances the overall cooking experience by making it more enjoyable, social, and relaxed.
To meet the lack of clarity and interactivity expressed by our users in the online recipe resources, our design aims to deliver clear instructions with smart AI features. It supports two-way interaction, allowing users to ask questions during live classes and get instant answers from the AI or live chefs. This two-way interaction capability will address the prevalent confusion and lack of guidance in existing online cooking platforms, making our Smart Mirror a reliable and tailored companion. Additionally, throughout the cooking process, the mirror will provide real time walkthroughs of the cooking process along with valuable tips and feedback that make the entire experience educational and less stressful. Figure 2 provides an example of what this could look like.
Figure 2: Real time walkthroughs of the cooking process with live feedback
Innovating the world of home cooking, the Smart Mirror addresses the challenges and fears encountered by beginners and intermediate cooks. By integrating live classes, AI-powered chef helpers, and a platform for social interaction, our design aims to simplify cooking and make it an engaging and sociable experience. We envision our Smart Mirror to be an interactive chef friend that supports, guides, and connects people, making cooking at home more delightful and enjoyable than ever before.