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Amazon Dash (amazon.com)
621 points by sheri on Apr 4, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 252 comments

HN'ers asking why this isn't a cell phone app take note - this exemplifies why we (geeks) don't make good use cases for consumer tech and we should always be careful looking to our own habits and values when in a Product Development role.

We're rarely the target customer and rarely behave like "average Joe". We're naturally resistant to superfluous redundancy ("My phone can already snap a barcode, I don't need a separate device") when consumers don't even see the duplication let alone the issue. They don't separate devices (or even apps) has having layers of similarity and just see things for their end functionality.

My mother would see a phone and apps as completely separate functionality to a physical device like this. She probably would have the Amazon Fresh scanner, the (theoretical) Google Shopping Express scanner and the (also theoretical) Whole Foods scanner and wouldn't even consider the duplication, let alone be frustrated by it. She doesn't care about the potential for an "open standard"/"common standard".

She also has an AppleTV and a ChromeCast connected to the same smart-TV that also has native apps within it (she mostly uses the native apps). Again, she sees no issue with that and might even buy an Amazon FireTV if she felt it was more compelling for one use.

Ultimately we shouldn't assume consumers value convergence, especially when it creates ever increasing complexity in user experience (eg opening an app to snap a barcode vs pressing a single button on an Amazon Fresh scanner)

ADDED: If you don't have parents that also work in tech, go visit them and just watch them use technology without prompting. Ask them about their experiences, their frustrations, their decisions behind purchasing specific equipment and downloading particular apps. It's very insightful.

Agreed. Other advantages:

A dedicated device means everyone in the household can use it without the friction of having to help everyone find the app and register with the same account.

People without phones (like kids) can use it.

It's designed to sit on the kitchen counter or hooked on to something. That physical presence reminds you to use it when you're in the kitchen, where an app buried on the last page of the home screen is easy to forget.

The camera-based barcode scanners like the one built into the Amazon mobile app are significantly more difficult to use than laser scanners. In a grocery shopping context, shoppers will purchase dozens of different products and every bit of additional frustration and delay matters.

One issue with the website: the hero image is really bad. The background is blurred out so there's no context and there are no other objects in the frame so I have no sense of scale. If there was like an apple next to it or something, and you could see it was in a kitchen, that would be so much better.

And here's a few more.

Dash device is an exemplar of a service in the same way that a Kindle device is. Amazon retains the option to later go the other way too, but while the constraint is still on the supply side (limited markets) this device serves to fix the service as a thing and generate publicity.

Also, the platform is controlled by Amazon. Free from interference by Apple, Google, OEM or carrier. Wifi and internet aside, all support issues will be standard and coming back to the same place.

For a mass-market voice UI device with no screen, at this stage in the game, voice recognition has to be best in class. I doubt Amazon could have managed this through a plethora of mobile devices. And they would not want their commercial voice data to be processed on Apple's or Google's servers via OS services.

I expect a tear-down will show that some of the parts used are, for now, relatively expensive, but at volume, this device can become a give-away / throw-away.

For what it's worth I doubt this video shows the whole story. Almost undoubtedly Amazon will batch your list up and email you a confirmation before it actually charges for and ships out the order, at which point you will be able to rectify errors in speech recognition or barcode misreadings.

Since Amazon seems to be specifically targeting parents with this ad, we might as well also mention that children will certainly find the Dash amusing with its beeping and red lights, and if Amazon automatically ordered everything your kid scanned for personal amusement, they'd have a lot of angry customers.

EDIT: On second watch, the ad does say "you can check out on Amazon Fresh or a smart phone", so they've explicitly indicated that there will be a confirmation process before the order is placed. This is just meant to make it quick to collect your list instead of having to type in "chocolate chips" and scroll through hundreds to find the brand you like and then repeat for every item in pantry.

This is precisely how it works.

You say things to the mic or scan items and they show up on your Dash list. From here, you can add them to your cart to check out.

Generic things like eggs, milk etc will default to the item you typically would order, so there is an aspect of personalization to it as well.

Levelling up against Costco and Walmart in really innovative way. Amazon had to have a "USP" other than "we will deliver stuff to your door steps". Now not only "you save the trip to the store, but also you get convenience of making your shopping list anytime, anywhere". Smart strategy that would be hard for traditional competitors like Wal-Mart to copy.

noting that a $299/year Amazon fresh subscription is required to play, this thing probably amortizes itself and then some pretty quickly. (Increases frequency of orders, increases number of things ordered, likely to increase retention of users ie length of subscription.)

What subscription are you referring to? If you spend $300 a month you get the big radish program which gives you lower minimums for delivery, but other than that there's no subscription program afaik.

Edited: I guess in the bay area it's a subscription program. In Seattle there's no subscription so I was confused.

"Amazon Prime Fresh members get the benefits of both Amazon Prime and AmazonFresh for an annual membership fee of $299. Prime Fresh membership is currently available only in the Southern California and San Francisco, CA Metro areas."


>"without the friction of having to help everyone find the app and register with the same account"

Sounds like a gap - Ninite for mobile.

(A quick Google suggests the idea's out there, but not yet implemented - http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/mvgh7/is_there_some...)

johnlbevan, you are hellbanned, that means no one can see your posts unless they are signed in and have "showdead" turned on.

I have to kindly disagree.

Every one is becoming increasingly more addicted to their iDevices or Android devices. It doesnt have anything to do with IQ, its common sense to use whats on you - your 'smart phone.

"...go ahead and grab it with flour on your hands". I don't know about you, but I wouldn't grab my smartphone with flour on my hands. Neither would I be trying to take a picture of a barcode with my cellphone in one hand, baby in the other, phone cover flapping down over my hand making it tricky to see what I'm doing while I try to pudge a greasy thumb at the "shoot" button while... blast I dropped it and it's bounced off the granite bench top onto the tiled floor.

"My smartphone has this computational ability" does not equal "my smartphone is in any way designed to be ergonomic or convenient for this task"

> Ultimately we shouldn't assume consumers value convergence, especially when it creates ever increasing complexity in user experience

Reminds me of this excellent article by Bret Victor: http://worrydream.com/ABriefRantOnTheFutureOfInteractionDesi...

Making everything an app narrows the bandwidth between the user and the tool. Now everyone needs a phone, and you can't leave the scanner where it gets used, and you have to go through the generalized touch interface to get to the functionality instead of (and this is a valid UI) just picking up the scanner.

I have never read that article before; but, it was absolutely amazing. Thanks for bringing it up!

Actually I think it is simpler than that, there was a time when the programmability of the phone was so much better than you could do in a cost effective embedded system that it was the right choice. Now you can put a 32 bit ARM Cortex M on a device for $3 and so spending on the plastic is more feasible.

You are probably right. I think some M3s have a DSP which could be leveraged for the voice portions. I'd imagine they also have a TI CC3000-like module with the whole TCP/IP stack to handle the comms. Maybe not necessarily the 3000, as they offer same functionality in larger sized modules for a lower cost. Further, I'd say TI also because of their SimpleLink system, which allows you to connect to Wi-Fi without entering SSIDs/passwords on a device. You'd just need to download the Amazon app to facilitate the initial connection if I understand it correctly.

UPDATE: Came across this video (40 seconds in), which all but confirms SimpleLink - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLOzF0Y4Mqw

Opening an app is, thankfully, something the tech industry has managed to train the average consumer to do.

I'd argue though remembering where you put this thing, or "oh hey the wifi password got changed why isn't the food scanner working?" adds lots more complexity than hitting an app icon. The app route also enables you to have multiple scanners - since the target audience of such a product is probably already heavy on tech, and most probably have multiple cell phones.

I guess that last line might be the issue. It isn't really a cell phone, it is a capacitive touch computer with a microphone and speaker, but that is something we haven't yet conveyed well.

Respectfully, there's geek-thinking again. Wifi password changing is a straw-man argument - most households use the default SSID and password that came with the router (if you don't believe me go to a residential area outside of SF and see how many 2WireXXX or ATTXXXX SSID's there are). Those that do set their own password never change it again.

Apps enabling multiple scanners - again assumes multiple smartphone ownership in the house in order for everyone to use it vs just having a single dedicated scanner that (as Amazon suggests in their site) hangs on your refrigerator.

I'm not even sure the average consumer is sufficiently trained yet about opening apps. I heard a segment on NPR recently where multiple callers (and the host) referred to a company's mobile-optimized website as an "app", many normal people don't really know what an app really is. I'll dig out the Pew Research study on mobile phones that said something like 20% of smartphone owners don't install any apps on their phones beyond those that came with the device (perhaps because they're fuzzy on the concept).

UPDATE: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-01-30/sm... - 17% of smartphone owners don't use any apps at all according to Pew.

I'm a geek and I don't use apps. I only use safari, flipboard (which is html based), and comiczeal. I'm actively building a streaming web-based replacement for my comic book reader.

I think people who think their phone can replace a dedicated barcode scanner should be forced to stand in a busy super market where all the checkout counters are forced to use an app to scan everything.

Opening an app is awkward when you do something else, in particular something like cooking. This gadget I just pick up from the counter, press a button and scan or speak. I don't have to worry about slightly wet or dirty fingers. Compare that with my phone, which either is somewhere else in the house or in my pocket. Before I pick it up from my pocket I want to make sure that don't have meat juice, tomato sauce or chocolate on my fingers. I have to press one button to start the phone, maybe press a pin code, find the app either by sweeping between several screens with icons or by starting search and type several characters hopefully not making any mistakes and finally be able to scan or speak to the app. At this point the meat is burnt and the sauce has boiled over.

Dedicated devises definitely have their uses, and this one is one of them.

Keep in mind that phones have a pretty high per-use setup cost: 1) Not all phones are voice activated, you you have to pick them up

2) If you're cooking and your hands are occupied/covered, you're going to have a hard time using a phone with your hands. Phones aren't typically waterproof, and touchscreens don't typically work well with water on them.

3) If you use a screen lock on your phone, any app is immediately inconvenient given #2

This device seems to be designed specifically for the job, and has a low per-use setup cost.


> "I think an advantage of having this decoupled from a smartphone is that you don't have to treat it like a smartphone"

Not to mention the credential waltz you'd have to do in a hypothetical app, in a home of more than 1 person/device, but served by 1 amazon fresh on a single amazon account. [1]

Or 1 person/device who travels between multiple places that are each potentially served by their own Amazon Fresh accounts. [2]

It makes much more sense to just strap one of these to the door of the refrigerator/pantry that it stocks.

[1] Entering/maintaining your amazon credentials on N devices, each having potentially-separate amazon credentials for other services. Good luck keeping that straight.

[2] Home, Work, Weekend Non-profit, Dorm, Family Cabin, etc. A college kid with divorced parents would be a nightmare usability scenario.

I think the grandparent's post is blowing the issue out of proportion. Amazon Dash isn't a phone app because phone apps are really slow and difficult for this use (if you've ever tried to use a barcode scanner based on your phone's built-in camera, you know what I'm talking about), not because people can't understand that their phone can do more than one thing. It is true that non-technical people are probably less annoyed by redundancy, but we shouldn't presuppose that this product is actually redundant just because phones can eventually do all the same tricks. The thing is that phones can't do those tricks as well, so the separation is justified.

The loop on the end is for opening beers.

Its rubberized. Would be pretty hard to open a beer bottle with it. :)

A lot easier. I imagine you have never opened a beer bottle with a paper handkerchief?

They released this amazing piece of hardware, and then they can use the same technology to complement it with an app. So you have both worlds happy - with or without a smartphone in the house. ;)

2010 called and wants it's smartphones-are-for-rich-geeks product formulation back.

Everyone who would buy their groceries via Amazon has a smartphone. This device is as baffling as it looks. With a smartphone you have the choice of UPC code scanning, QR codes, or label/logo recognition (as in Goggles).

One of the photos implies it is a laser bar code scanner. So if this gizmo is useful, it's because it would be faster and more reliable than photographing bar codes. Not because potential users don't have, or can't use a phone camera for this purpose.

"it would be faster"

Friction is key. The example I typically use is "if the laser printer were in the basement vs. next to your desk how much would you use it?"

A device that you can pick up, hit a button, and do your thing has less friction than doing the same on a smartphone.

My smartphone is always within reach for me because I'm addicted to it. This thing? It's somewhere in the kitchen maybe.

Older generations use their phones for...calling people. Not refreshing Facebook every 30s. That means the phone will be in the last place where they made a phone call, which could easily be the basement. This thing? Its somewhere in the kitchen maybe; exactly where it is supposed to be used.

Why would this be useful in the kitchen if there's a day's delivery delay anyway?

Because that's the place where you want to quickly add an item or make a note on your shopping list.

In the kitchen maybe is the perfect place for the thing to use to have replacement food items added to your shopping list. That's where they want you to keep it even.

The type of people who would use this have lots of things in the kitchen and adding another kitchen gadget isn't necessarily the best solution.

You're forgetting the voice recognition. What if there's no barcode to scan? The Fire TV voice search is excellent -- I used it last night -- and if the Dash has similar tech then it might actually be a useful supplement to the apps.

And they could stuff the same software in a phone too.

you talk as if this already was a runaway success with consumers. did i miss something? cuecat bombed as well.

maybe it will take off, maybe it will not.

drawing any conclusions right now is bs.

The cuecat has had an interesting second life as a book scanner. Niche market, yes, but works great for the purpose.

Many products come before their time, then bomb. Time passes, technology catches up, society gets ready, business models evolve, and the product succeeds.

Did you get the memo? HN users can deduce the future from a few well stated postulates that engender no controversy or original thought. When expectations are shattered by renegades and outliers, HN spends the next two weeks publishing reasons why we knew it all along.

That's true, our non technical parents can be funny with technology. But from my experience it all comes down to motivation. My mom has a hard time plugging in her computer and definitely can't remember the power button is on the back, but put her on a dating website and she is like a little kid texting.

I think you're missing the main reason why they made the separate device, to generate more sales.

If you receive a free device in the mail that can scan your groceries, you'll use it. If you receive a link to a free app then there is a much slimmer chance that you'll use the service and purchase the products.

> Ultimately we shouldn't assume consumers value convergence

Yep, indeed. And the frustrating part is that they choose "easy" over "simple" and end up drowning themselves in "complexity". And they go like "I have so many devices already, and I've already went through the pain of learning to use them, I'm not going to bother to learn the mobile app you talk about too, even if it you say it can replace them all and save me money, it's jut too much for my brain, this I already know, go away!". Big win for the sellers of these devices that are first to get to the market. Amazon will win big with these!

The interesting people is how can we educate consumers to value what we call "convergence", because their current way of thinking hurts both themselves (they end up spending more and being too "overloaded" to be capable to make the best shopping decisions, or the other extreme, having access only to "curated slices of the market" with the same consequences) and to the tech sector as a whole (yeah, more devices mean more innovation at start, but since convergence will happen anyway at a point, all we end up is reinventing wheels and generating tons of needless complexity that we drown ourselves in...).

(for a definition of how I use 'simple', 'easy' and 'complex' refer to - http://www.infoq.com/presentations/Simple-Made-Easy it's about programming but I think the metaphors also apply to UI/X)

This if Amazon Fresh were available in her Area is targeted right at my grandmother. She Has Macular Degeneration and can not drive. My Grandfather has to drive and his energy level seems to diminish by the day. So needless to say Grocery Shopping takes both of them. With her eyes a smartphone is more or less useless. But this having a speech function seems like it would be perfect for her.

To some extent, though. When I'm home, my mother gets extremely frustrated (still!) that there isn't one remote that does everything.

Yeah, but she doesn't want all the buttons from all the remotes moved to a single monstermote, she wants the TV remote to do everything as if the only thing connected was a TV. "Why do I have to choose channels on my TV AND cable/satellite box?" and "why are there multiple sound levels for the HiFi, TV, cable and DVD boxes?" are questions no one has adequately answered and they're questions everyone except geeks and techno-fetishists are asking.

I actually want Apple to do something about this, though I'm not normally in on Apple's philosophy. I propose the following:

1. Any TV channel without content on it goes away. If you only have 3 channels with signal you get no benefit from being able to select 96 channels of white noise.

2. Cable/satellite channels stack on top of the TV channels. It just looks like your TV has more over-the-air channels when you plug in the box.

3. DVD-players and so on are treated as channels (see 3). EXT goes away. A device can be represented by as many channels as it wants, but they're all stacked on top of the TV channels. No special treatment, except perhaps a lower number. A device is turned on when you select a channel associated with it.

4. Any sound systems automatically defer to the settings on the TV. They behave as if they were the TV speakers. No setup. No settings. No knobs to turn. Plug and Play. If a sound system has buttons it's too complicated.

5. DVD/BR players lose all but play/pause, ff/rwd and the nevigational buttons. Why is there a numpad on my DVD remote? I don't even want to know. Just make it go away. Same with the TV remote itself: Everything except on/off, numpad and volume disappears. Remotes are not unified, but everything that can be deferred to the TV remote is deferred to it.

The above isn't completely perfect, but it's kind of obvious.

I'm currently studying but I might be available for hiring or consulting. I obviously compare favorably with whoever is maintaining the status quo.

>Yeah, but she doesn't want all the buttons from all the remotes moved to a single monstermote, she wants the TV remote to do everything as if the only thing connected was a TV. "Why do I have to choose channels on my TV AND cable/satellite box?" and "why are there multiple sound levels for the HiFi, TV, cable and DVD boxes?" are questions no one has adequately answered and they're questions everyone except geeks and techno-fetishists are asking.

When I was 4 we had a cable box and a TV. I could obviously see that the cable box had its own volume and its video output was its own thing that only went to one channel on the TV itself, because it was what turned the cable wire coming in into a signal, which it put on its output cable wire directed to only one channel, channel 3 or 4, and that that applied to its volume as well. Nobody explained it to me, I could just tell by looking at it. I wasn't a "geek" or a "techno-fetishist." I don't think anyone of any age who thinks about it for more than one second finds this a difficult question, hopefully.

There are people out there who don't know what communism is. Not the precise definition, just the loose concept.

50% of all people are dumber than average.

More importantly, though, is that the current arrangement is inelegant.

What of Logitech's Harmony system? It works around the concept of activities.

"Watch TV" - it asks initially, "What input is the TV set to?" "What remote do you use to control the volume?" "What remote to change the channel?"

And from then on, it works. It doesn't cover all on your list, but it has the potential.

I agree with the Harmony suggestion. I bought one to replace all my remotes purely because I don't need 900 different settings that all do the same thing.

For example, I have a TV, a Bluray player, and an AV receiver. I choose the "watch a movie" task, it turns all three on, sets the TV input to the input the AV receiver is plugged into, the AV receiver to the input the Bluray player is plugged into, and then maps the play/stop/ff/rev/etc buttons to the Bluray player and the volume buttons to the AV receiver.

Every button is configurable, all the on screen menu options on the remote are configurable.

That the buttons are configurable is a bug, not a feature. It doesn't come with your TV, you have to know that you should buy it and you have to set it up. It works for you, but does it work for your SO/parents or whatever? Or did you have to teach them how to use it? If yes then it doesn't really work.

An example of something similar: Ubuntu can become as simple as a stone. It would still be too complicated because it doesn't come pre-installed on officially supported PCs. Not third-party-brand-no-ones-heard-about with tentative OS support. I'm talking about an official Ubuntu PC where everything is made to fit with each other. Me and you are OK with patchworks of software and hardware, bugs and weird command line wizardy. Normal people want appliances. Windows PCs are something people treat as horrible appliances, which they've sort of learned to tolerate and work with over a decade or more of training. It's like a fridge with a control panel. Normal people need iOS. Options and customizability are bugs, not features to most people. Sometimes some (but not most) people want more than just an appliance, but they still want the minimal complexity possible given their requirements. Buying extra remotes or installing another OS is really not what they want.

Downvoters: I dragged desktop Linux into this because I'm excited about Linux and because it's hopeless as a consumer product.

I strongly disagree here. I have a Harmony remote, I know exactly how to use it, and I consider it a usability disaster. It definitely would not be my model for consumer device usability.

Partially agreed - the configuration leaves a lot to be desired, but once programmed it’s good. The biggest thing for my girlfriend was the “Help” function (if she hadn’t kept the remote pointed for the entire sequence) - but that’s been largely negated by my latest upgrade, which has an IR blaster in the entertainment center itself.

I have the Harmony 890 and aside from the disaster that is programming it, I also find it frustrating to use. If it's decided to turn off the screen, it does so with a slow fade out, and while it's doing that you can't do anything. It's like it has one thread of execution, and while it's changing backlight brightness it ignores the buttons. This is really annoying because then you have to shake it to wake it back up and hit your button again.

Another glaring problem is how it decides to carp about low battery levels right in the middle of what you're doing. When this happens, it ignores your input until you acknowledge the low battery warning. After you acknowledge, it completely forgets what you were in the middle of doing. As if that weren't all bad enough, the battery warning can come back at any time after you dismissed the last one, including immediately, one second later, etc.

I find myself using the individual remotes more and more often in the past few years. They are stateless, have excellent battery life, and are incapable of measuring their battery levels. They don't have any of the Harmony's bad habits.

I don't doubt that the remote is great. Good on Logitech. But the old remotes don't go away. They linger around like naval mines waiting for a tech-illiterate person to at best get horribly confused or at worst fuck something up. It ends up being another thing with too many features and buttons that the geek-in-residence has to teach and help everyone with.

Logitech isn't really the company to do this. Apple would be great. Their brand is perfect for this. Apple's brand is, as far as I've gathered, "open your wallet and we'll make your tech easy to use, trouble-free, beautiful and sure to impress your friends". Logitech is "that keyboard/mice company". Would you buy a TV and HiFi from Logitech?

One thing I learnt over the years is as simple as this: don't be blind to challenge the current paradigm. once upon a time it's desktop application on windows. then the search. now it's app on mobile phone.

I think you are on the right analytic route but somehow down to wrong direction. the mass market just doesn't want more than one ways to consume computing. at a given time, vast majority of consumer want to learn exactly one thing (WIMP, google, App with touch support) and then apply the knowledge everywhere. the cost of migration to new paradigm for the mass market is so high that minor mutations would have to live with sub 10% share. (think about MacOS in window's high day, bing/yahoo in google's day, and Nokia).

will Dash have a market? yes. will it be successful? no.

>HN'ers asking why this isn't a cell phone app take note - this exemplifies why we (geeks) don't make good use cases

Whoa, whoa, whoa! I still have a working CueCat. I think the Jury is way still out on this. I'm betting it will do better than the CueCat because Amazon as a company has a better track record, but assuming this was a brilliant move to use a proprietary, non-smart phone device is—it is just way too early! For example, all it takes is the next generation of phone to be like, "Hey we should improve our barcode scanning in the next Samsung Galaxy SVI The Undiscovered Country."


I would argue that things that introduce complexity are just bad forms of integration.

It's easy to conceive of device boxes just adding channels to the TV, or having a protocol for using the TV remote to navigate their menu (this is a great opportunity to create a bad experience, but it wouldn't have to).

Absolutely agree! Also while this could very easily have been built as a phone app, scanning barcodes, voicing out groceries would first require the user to start up the app a first step. Its almost like Google Ware as dedicated hardware for Google Now!

I understand what you are saying but I feel like you overlook the power of having everything on one device, if you are at a friend's house eating something new you like you will likely have your phone on you. Also this viewpoint id's really shortsighted, everyone will be very used to using your cellphone for everything as our generation ages

" if you are at a friend's house eating something new you like you will likely have your phone on you"

Nothing will prevent you from doing that also (I'm sure).

Just like you can own a kindle but also read kindle books on, for example, an iphone.

True, but shouldn't it ALSO be an app? Maybe in the works, I dunno.

There is already a dedicated Amazon Fresh app, I'd imagine they'll integrate the functionality.


It sounds like you're not familiar with Amazon Fresh (understandable given that it's currently only available in 3 cities in the US). You don't have to use this device to buy groceries from Amazon Fresh. You can just use their run-of-the-mill web store. https://fresh.amazon.com/welcome

It's been available in Seattle for almost a year now, long before this thing came out.

Along with that they already have a phone app for android at least.


Based on the comments, I'm guessing few poeople here have ever worked retail and held a barcode scanner.

Break out your phone, load up your barcode scanning app (there's 20 seconds right there even if the phone is in your pocket). Now try to actually scan something with it. You'll spend another 30 seconds lining up the little on-screen window with the code, rotating things, waiting for the camera to focus, and even having to move to another location if you're not in bright lighting. It's a terrible experience and that's why you don't see stores checking people out using the camera of an iPad.

A barcode scanner, on the other hand, just works. You point it in the general vicinity of the barcode, press the button, and it's scanned. You don't have to perfectly align anything, be in specific lighting, or wait for a camera and an app. I'm sure you've seen cashiers run multiple things over a scanner in under a second.

Amazon Dash isn't just a subset of your phone's functionality. It's a dedicated barcode scanner, which is hardware you don't have on your phone.

Good points (I like especially the fact that you incorporate real life experience). Although I've never worked retail I've had businesses where we've printed bar codes and had to use a scanner to test them for accuracy.

Anyway with respect to this:

"It's a dedicated barcode scanner"

So I would expect then if the amazon device turns out to be a hit that a dedicated bar code scanner might be incorporated into the functionality of a smartphone. Where if it was waved over a bar code you'd get a screen where you could then take action (or not). After amazon proves the market of course. (Like with Kindle).

I don't think that this necessarily means that an amazon device wouldn't have a use though. It would still come in handy for other purposes and at other times.

yes, i discovered the limitations of phone barcode apps during a brief, abortive attempt to scan in my book collection. it was simply too painful and i gave up early.

In England we have a lot of self-serve counters with scanners built in. Is that not something Americans have yet?

Anyway, it doesn't 'just work'. Often you stand there like a lemon trying to scan again and again. You can pick out the people who've barely used them as they always take an age to scan everything.

And each major supermarket has their own version of these things and they're all equally as cumbersome to use, so I think barcode scanning gets easy with practice but it definitely doesn't 'just work'.

Lemons are a good example of something that works poorly for self checkout. They are small and round which is hard to have a barcode label displayed on. They're worried about weight and that you aren't stealing. It's often much easier to scan a barcode when you're holding the scanner and not the object.

Though in this case, you could also just say "lemons" and be done with it.

Like a lemon's an idiom, sorry! I just meant that it takes a while to get good at scanning.

I have personally completely given up on scanning QR codes and barcodes with a camera phone. It's just never worth it.

Sears does use a type of cell phone for checkout but it does seem to have a modified camera with a laser scanner instead. Something more interesting would have been a new type of amazon smart phone with built in laser scanner and some extra buttons for scan/talk.

Number of steps to scan grocery by phone:

1. Find your phone

2. Unlock

3. Swipe left to home page three or maybe four

4. Visually scan for the AmazonFresh icon and tap

5. Wait for loading

6. Start scanning action

7. Confirm and pay

Number of steps to scan grocery by Dash:

1. Get device from drawer or pantry

2. Press one button and scan

3. Confirm and pay

For the target demo (30+, married, households with children), option 2 wins hands down. Because you will easily be distracted and stop using option 1 and not complete checkout.

Amazon knows CPG and commerce better than you do.

Not to be a pedant but you're neglecting steps in your Dash algorithm that you implemented in the phone version (possibly creating a visual bias).

Number of steps to scan grocery by Dash:

1.) Find scanner

2.) Turn on scanner

3.) Start scanning action

4.) Find laptop (or mobile phone)

5.) Navigate to browser

6.) Sign in to Amazon Fresh Account

7.) Confirm and pay

I don't honestly think the Dash would provide a discernibly faster experience, but I do believe it would be the option your target demographic opts for simply because the Dash is explicitly designed for this type of task. Just because my phone can turn on the television doesn't mean I won't reach for the remote every time.

1. Do you have to find your frying pan every time you cook food also? This is a kitchen utensil with a dedicated storage location. Its not comparable to finding your phone which might still be left in your car even.

2. I think its very unlikely a device like this in year 2014 will have a power on button. Scan and power on will most likely be the same thing. Charging battery of yet another device is still a hurdle though

4-7 is something you only do once a week, and this action could still be done on the phone,

they also didn't account for the kids "helping out" and not putting the Dash back where you expect it.

Also, if something like this gets baked into iOS or Android the steps change to "Swipe from home screen. Select 'Scan'."

Though I trust Amazon here and assume their hardware works in more situations than a phone's camera

It's also why I continue to wear a watch despite carrying a cell phone.

Exactly, that is an excellent analogy.

Classic over engineering.

"Number of steps to scan grocery by phone"

Most people just use pencil + paper, or notepad/note app on phone. Never have I seen people actually use technology while shopping unless it's a typed out list.

Yep I agree. I've tried lots of to do lists, apps, etc. and always keep coming back to the pen and paper stuck to the refrigerator. Siri adding stuff to notes through voice rec worked pretty well, but it's a gigantic hassle to be cruising through the grocery store constantly turning your phone on and off to go through the list.

Although nicely executed, I really don't see Dash being more than something a gadget freak uses for a few weeks and then sits in a drawer forever. Also doesn't help that the area for Amazon Fresh is so small too.


In fairness however, my wife and I use grocery lists on our phones all the time (though it's only two steps, not the OP's 7: (1) "put peaches on my grocery list" (2) confirm).

So, I built an app for exactly this type of scenario[1]. My wife would ask me to buy something, and then forget, so she'd send an updated email. And then an updated updated email.

And then possibly a text message. Of course, it goes from being 2 things to 10 things quickly. And then I'd have to deal with actually keeping the list orderly and constantly checking what I did have in the basket already (more difficult with 20+ items).

So, I wrote an app. It was funny, building a "twodo" app. But honestly, I just needed something that worked.

I mention all of this because it did start with trying to use what we already had.

[1] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/twodo/id834991291?mt=8

Alternatively, if you had an 'always listening phone' like the Moto X, your flow might go something like this:

Option A

1. Ask your phone to buy {name of item}

2. Screen turns on, tap to confirm your purchase

Option B

1. Find the Dash device

2. Scan the item (if you haven't already discarded or recycled it, and haven't ruined the barcode in the process of opening it)

3. Confirm and pay

To me, Dash feels like a (possibly unnecessary) stopgap on Amazon's part. I understand they have the means to try things like this, but selling a device seems superfluous given the developing capability and direction of phones. As an Amazon customer, I hope Option A is their endgame.

> 1. Ask your phone to buy {name of item}

Outside theory, I don't see that working very well in the real world currently.

On amazon fresh website, there are currently

229 results for "green apples"

8 results for "granny smith apples"

2 results for "1 granny smith apples"

Same with ham, eggs, or any other products really. Sure, the user could be more specific, but then it gets a lot more work and problematic than simply scan the damn barcode for this "4-in-1 pack of organic spanish strawberry yoghurt march special offer".

First - what's simple about "simply scan the damn barcode"? Simplicity is telling your phone that you ran out of pasta sauce, not stocking a barcode scanner in your pantry. The hardware may be sleek, but amazon's solution most certainly isn't. For a company with amazon's resources, I'd expect more.

Next - presuming that you bought something from Amazon, why do you need the barcode? If I recently bought and/or regularly buy granny smith apples from Fresh, it's quite easy to figure out the most probable buying targets for queries of "apples." Further, if I regularly buy 5 different types of granola bars, now I can use one query and a checkbox instead of scanning each box individually. (Sidebar: how do you use Dash to scan produce that you've already consumed? Do you have to keep the containers around?)

In the big scheme of things, figuring out which product you probably want to buy based on your buying history (and that of others) is a trivial problem compared to the other problems that had to be solved for "always listening" and such. Amazon's job ends up being the easiest in that stack.

You're not considering that a lot of people might just prefer to be explicit and specific about purchases. If I see I've run out of pasta sauce, I might want to scan the empty one to reoder it, because it's precise. I definitely wouldn't want to risk vagueness and inaccuracy just for the privilege of using an abstraction like saying "I'm out of pasta sauce" into a phone. What would that achieve anyway? Outsourcing the bit of your brain that says "we need more pasta sauce", so you've only got to worry about thinking "oh there's no pasta sauce"..? Scanning a barcode is simple and precise.

  risk vagueness and inaccuracy
You're scanning a barcode of an item you recently purchased from amazon. Where is the vagueness in querying for that item by type?

In most cases, your pantry has 1 type of each item, which means you've got a canonical mapping from "pasta sauce" to an item in your fridge. That also means you've got a very high probability of mapping the recent purchase of pasta sauce to the query of "pasta sauce." Where is the vagueness?

In the worst case, you've bought two or three different types of pasta sauce, and you'd like to replace just one. Let's be clear - this is most definitely the exception to the rule. In this case, your phone gives you a list of options to choose from -- the list of your N most recently purchased pasta sauces (backfilled by prior orders or popular choices).

"Phone, order green apples"

"Same type as last week?"

"No, the ones I bought before that"

"OK, ordered XXX apples"

Steps 2 and 3 may be better in the hands of the consumer -- in other words, while you can get away with probabilistic guesses for an initial query, you'd be better off leaving the consumer with an interface they can pick & choose from instead of trying to pull a Siri.

Where is the barcode on a granny smith apple?

most people keep their phone on them most of the day, especially those willing to grocery shop online. i don't feel like finding a phone and pressing maybe, 3 buttons, is any slower than finding some other gadget tucked in a drawer somewhere in your house, and pressing one button. i don't see the point of the hardware here, even though finding an app on my phone is apparently 4 steps.

Moms do the lion's share of household grocery shopping, and are less likely to have functional pockets than men. This gizmo is going to be hanging on the pantry door.

Amazon is creating services and products based on observed behaviors and needs in households with multiple people. You're making claims about what other people want based on how you feel.

Creating things people want and are willing to give you money for requires paying attention to what they actually do and use -- not just what they say they do, nor how you feel they should be acting.

> some other gadget tucked in a drawer somewhere in your house

It's designed with a loop so you can hook it somewhere handy. They show this in the video at 1m27s.

For some reason this made me thing of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat

A minor difference between Dash and Cuecat: when the CueCat launched, approximately none percent of magazine ads had CueCat codes. When Dash launched approximately 98% of household consumable items had bar codes.

Yes, if you throw away your box for your granola bars, you might not have the bar code handy, but it was at least there when you bought it in the store.

Indeed, if the CueCat had had specific ties to online grocers' shopping carts, there would be nothing new about Dash.

This totally reminded me of CueCat. Despite CueCat being free, it was commonly sold on ebay because it made the cheapest barcode scanner on market. Amazon dash will end up being similarly awesome for hobbiest to hack on.

it's free (with a $299/yr amazon fresh account). that's very much not the same thing as free.

For what it's worth, I'm currently midway through the 30 day free trial of Fresh, and I got an email offering me one for free.

Seattle does not require Prime Fresh, it's free (but delivery fees apply below certain thresholds).

If it 'breaks', will Amazon send you another one?

The CueCat has a wire.

Possibly a case of doing one thing wrong that ruined the entire product. We'll see.

CueCat also required proprietary software to be installed on a PC or Mac. It was not a standalone device.

And the industrial design! It was a chintzy elongated white plastic cat, with an IR window across the mouth. And it was finicky as hell to use, compared to a real barcode scanner.

At the time, though, Bluetooth was neither common nor very easy to work with on home PCs.

Listening to a young child carefully pronounce words for the narration was a bit distracting and slightly irritating. A sentence or so would be fine, but narrating the whole video was an exercise in patience.

Or do I just have a cold, black heart?

You took the words right out of my mouth. The chirpy music, too, but the kid's "How was that?" at the end tipped me over the edge. It's one thing to be fed a dose of cute, another to have a tonne of it shovelled on you.

I think the point was "so simple a child could explain it".

Sorry, you have a cold, black heart. I liked it.

I thought it was adorable, and a stark contrast from a lot of Amazon's other less-than-thrilling product videos

The ad panders practically exclusively to parents (almost every shot is a parent with child), and they're probably more specifically targeting female parents (the ones who more often do the grocery shopping).

I thought it was a cute concept but also found the narration a bit grating, and I'm the parent of multiple small children. My wife would probably think it's adorable though.

My first thought: people are going to bring this to retail shops to get the benefits of brick-and-mortars shopping while benefiting from the low prices / delivery of Amazon.

A lot of people already kind of do this. They go to a shop, find the items they like and look up on the web if they can get a cheaper price by ordering online.

This version of the product might not be so practical for this use case though since it requires a WiFi connection and can probably only scan AmazonFresh barcodes.

Exactly. Which Amazon smiles at currently and encourages through their barcode scanning app (this will require internet access for Dash, though - unless it comes with some variation of whispersync).

Says it needs an internet connection, but a cell phone as a hotspot would do that pretty easily.

Or the dash could have an offline mode where it stores scanned barcodes for later lookup.

So assumedly this will work in a store also? Could I go 'grocery shopping' at Whole Foods and end up having everything shipped to me by Amazon for cheaper?

Can easily see this evolving into an Amazon price comparison tool for mobile use. Maybe I get a flash discount if the GPS has me standing in a Best Buy already.

Well there's no screen, maybe it could yell at you or alert your phone?

I actually thought that this is exactly what it was for when reading the first few bullet points and didn't think of home first, just a "Oh wow, they're making showroom shopping even easier."

They already have this with their smartphone app. You scan with your camera (which is slower than the laser based method of the Dash), but then see the product and pricing from Amazon.


"Maybe I get a flash discount if the GPS has me standing in a Best Buy already." That is hilarious! It doesn't have cellular connection, but it might have bluetooth.

"Dash ... works directly with your AmazonFresh account"

Which means it is only available in three locations (SoCal/SF/Seattle).

Why, that's hardly 20 million people!

All software must work for at least 150 million people to be considered remotely useful, haven't you heard? :D

SoCal is too big of an area to claim. It only works in a handful of zipcodes in So Cal.

Source: I live in So Cal.

For anyone who's curious, it works in LA.

Why is Amazon gold plating their fresh service when they didn't manage to meaningfully expand it since 2007?

Its expansion was limited due to state sales tax laws, and Amazon's historical attempts to avoid customers paying sales taxes. Now that they are largely collecting sales taxes they can expand into more local services like Fresh. Most of these laws changed in the last couple years.

Even if they hadn't expanded beyond Seattle, Seattle is their "home market" where lots of their employees live and a rather good market for a wide-availability grocer. Fred Meyer stores nor its QFC sibling hold a candle to any halfway-decent actual-Kroger from back home. Safeway is just Tom Thumb with a 20% markup. This isn't exactly the Dallas/Fort Worth grocery region, with 11 (yes, eleven) full-service grocery chains. Besides, having innovation on a local scale probably matters as much to Amazon as innovation on a national scale because it gets them shopping data and a "test platform" that can serve as the basis for expansion.

Here is my problem: it's been in this perpetual beta mode since 2007.

At some point they should be done with all the market research there is to do and either go big or stop wasting resources on building gadgets for it.

Why do they have to go big all at once? What other grocery delivery services have even tried that in the past 10 years?

Freshdirect is NYC area and Philly, Peapod has a few markets but they are part of a grocery chain so everything but the last mile is take care of logistics wise. It seems like figuring out how to do it at scale and be competitive is exactly what Amazon is doing. If they can make it almost as cheap but have compelling additional features then it helps them roll it out wider.

Instead of "Market Research", and "Building Gadgets" - why not just refer to Amazon's continuing work in Grocery development as "Product Development" - eventually they may hit the right mix of devices, software, services, and pricing that allows them to heavily invest in other markets.

And you're qualified to say this because?

They can get it right (figure out how to increase order sizes, order frequency, margins, etc.) and then expand; or they can expand and try to figure all of those things out.

With their main business they chose to grow as fast as possible and are still figuring out profitability. When you're selling electronics with 50% markup that works. Groceries, which have <5% margins, not so much.

Sort of. Amazon started out with just books, they got that working and then started selling everything else. But for a long time it was just books.

I hear they're in the process of morphing it into a Costco competitor with special standardized oversized boxes.

It was expanded last year from just Seattle to also include San Francisco and LA.

how popular is it in places where it is open? any numbers? when is it coming to Boston?

In Santa Monica and Culver City in Los Angeles market I usually see 2-3 amazon fresh trucks on my daily commute to and from work. It's rare anymore that I don't see one. I've also seen several companies that are using them to stock the company fridge with things like milk. It looks like it's taking off fairly well anecdotally. I don't know if there's been any numbers published though. The biggest hurdle I've seen with it is that the site for it is woefully underpolished. It's not buggy but it tends to be slow, and a little obtuse to browse on at times. If you have something specific in mind it's really easy to find it, but if you wanted to say just look at the different types of potato chips they have, it can get a little unwieldy at times.

Because Instacart made them say, "oh shit"?

I've been expecting Tesco (UK) to do this for ages. They have supermarkets literally operating on this sort of device, you scan+bag as you go, and they have a decent national delivery service.

I wonder if they tried it and found there are less opportunities to upsell so it doesn't pay off: If I'm only scanning products I have then where's the discovery and upsell?

One discovery method could be the "free upgrade". You feel good that they upgraded you to "premium" granola and when you run out, it's an easy upsell since you can just scan the box.

They might even be able to get away with just giving you free stuff outright as a discovery method too, given the huge amounts of consumer behaviour data they must have — as long as their algorithms can predict you have a profitable% chance of reordering the item.

That's a really good point actually. It's always interesting seeing how they upsell, thinking about it they're probably the best I've seen at it.

Amazon needs to scale Fresh in order for it to be more successful. On a micro level, scaling could come in one of 2 ways: (1)increase order frequency or (2)average order size.

(1) Order frequency - Right now, a typical customer likely picks up groceries when they're out and it's convenient. This very well could be on the commute home from work, later at night, etc. With Dash sitting around the kitchen, Amazon has now created a very tangible reminder in the form of the Dash device to order your groceries, rather than waiting until it pops into your mind (and possibly not buying on Amazon).

(2) Average order size - As someone posted above, it takes 1 or 2 button clicks to reorder an item using Dash. Compared to the current way of online grocery shopping, Dash eliminates a lot of possibilities of forgetting to reorder something you intended to, because it is so simple. Compared to on the PC when you may forget to browse the snacks category, for example, and you forget to order chips and cookies. Way less likely to happen with Dash.

This doesn't address price concerns, but in terms of convenience for Amazon Fresh customers & increasing Fresh orders/order size, this seems like a massive win-win for Amazon and their customers.

I wonder if this will lead to showrooming of groceries, like Amazon's done with books. The only thing preventing this is the wifi requirement, but of course one can already do this with their phone. Though it does make it even easier.

I'm not sure that would help them. Amazon Fresh doesn't have a great record for beating grocery store pricing. See http://www.cnet.com/news/amazonfresh-vs-supermarket-a-hands-... which matches my personal experience when I've compared baskets of products my family commonly purchases.

I will say when we used it, the produce quality was very good which was one of my concerns. Seems like they went above and beyond to address the fear of not picking your own apple.

I can't see ever paying the $299 special prime membership they are requiring in some markets though.

The $299 annual fee does give some sticker shock, but annualized that's only about $6 per week (more like $4-5 if you already have a regular Prime membership and deduct that existing cost). Especially if you're shopping for 2 or more, that comes out to a pretty small tax on your regular grocery bill.

I signed up for the free trial (because that's the only way to see what they have available for sale). Browsed the prices, immediately canceled the free trial. I wouldn't use it even if it were free, tacking on $299 to pay for overpriced groceries is a non-starter. Granted I live only a mile from a grocery store, so it's not a compelling proposition to cut grocery store trips out of my life for that price. However, the people who'd likely get the most from this service (people living in rural areas) probably aren't going to have this service available to them anytime soon, if ever.

The other group is people living in cities for whom transporting groceries home is a serious burden. That's really the only context in which this makes economic sense for both the user and the supplier.

One possible example of the target market is my grandmother, living in a third-floor apartment in Haifa. She already uses a similar service, just less convenient - she has to go the grocery store, buy her groceries and take them to the register, and then order delivery at checkout.

Another target market is your standard techie with no car (e.g. me). In that case, the choices are either a car-share (whose convenience varies with distance to a car-share lot - in my case pretty high) or lugging stuff back by hand (convenience varies both with distance to the grocery store and with the number of hills in the way - in my case, I live on top of a gigantic hill). Even so, I think this is only worth it if the subscription cost is split between 2-4 people. I don't think this is for people with a car and a parking spot, but there are a lot of people who don't, even with a high income.

When I did the free trial, the prices weren't all that bad - generally if I shopped around I could find stuff within 5-10% of Safeway prices, and sometimes cheaper, and the convenience was amazing (for example, it also replaced my pharmacy/Target runs). Note, I did find a way to browse their selection before signing up - I just had to tell them what urban area I'm in.

$299 + $100 for Prime, actually.

We use Amazon Fresh in Seattle for all of our groceries. There's no membership fee, and if they made me start paying $400/year for it, I'd never order again.

The "Prime Fresh" subscription fee includes standalone Prime (they call it an upgraded Prime). You still get all the normal benefits.

Considering that Grocery Gateway (services parts of metropolitan Toronto; has a website and mobile app; is owned by a nationwide premium grocery store chain in the country) charges $10/order, you'd make it up if you ordered groceries every week.

If you don't order that often, the margins probably aren't high enough that Amazon can afford to service you.

The prices will probably drop once they've got more fulfillment centers close to the large metropolitan areas.

Grocery is really low margin, and hard to make money on when you factor in delivery. Source: I worked for a grocery distributor for six years.

Opportunity and wait cost is annoying high if you're trying to save a few bucks by going to the supermarket, scanning all the items there, and ordering from Amazon.

If anything I'd imagine rolling into recommended food subscriptions.

If you don't have the products on hand you won't be trying to QR scan stuff. You would just order it from amazon.com.

Anyone know the battery life/lifetime of these? If it's months, that's a lot more convenient to keep in the pantry. As a kitchen appliance it makes a lot of sense, but I don't have any muscle memory for "charging" appliances.

Here be speculation:

It looks fairly large (plenty of battery room), has no display (not sure about scanner battery usage), and transmits little data over WiFi per use. With it's simplicity, there's no reason they can't use the lowest power MCU and WiFi modules they can find.

All of these have good usability implications, but it looks like battery life was probably also a big design consideration.

I could imagine that it is months. Compare with the kindle that needs charging not even once a month even with frequent use.

I hope that's a bottle opener on the top.

hah! I think it's a genius design detail. They want you to hang it in the kitchen somewhere, so it's always accessible.

I assumed it was so you could put it on your keyring.

Why would they make a device rather than an app to do this? Seems pretty awesome as a service though...if Amazon Fresh was available here.

I think it has to do with the mental model. The Amazon Dash could be the first thing you think about when needing something, instead of your normal grocer, because its right there in your home. On a phone this would be just an application, which is easily forgotten and since its not special purpose hardware it's always more tedious to use then a device that has just this one purpose and those buttons.

Have you ever tried to scan barcodes with a cellphone? For anything other than some sort of "novelty" "let's trying this cool new QR hipster app" type of situation.

Er, I have. 1D barcode scanning has been working perfectly on phones for at least a few years now.

Nice try NSA!

Seriously though, it worries me that there are more and more 'listening devices' in my home.

We've seen what has happened recently with the NSA listening to calls. What is to stop the authorities getting a back door into all these devices and just recording everything?

I really want nothing to do with 20 different cloud connected and voice-aware devices in my home.

I'm not going to buy a Xbox One unless I can effectively mute the mic (not just the UI telling me I did) and I'm not having a nest thermometer tied to some weird social login/profile that I have to create in order to use it.

I'm certainly not going to stick some amazon listening device in my kitchen.

If this device is designed half-way smart it will have a microphone that is optimized for very close voices and a power management designed for short bursts of activity.

Which means it will be next to useless for the sort of carpet-surveillance the NSA has been accused off.

I'm surprised this exists to be honest. Not because of smartphones, but because I thought RFID chips would be sufficiently disposable by now that we'd have smart refrigerators and trashcans. I had to buy a new refrigerator last year and I was struck by how many different kinds of ice dispensers there were (a feature in which I have no interest whatsoever) vs smart refrigerators. I found exactly one of the latter - the unfortunately named T9000 from Samsung (Komm vith me if you vant a snack...), which is really just a refrigerator with a tablet stuck on the front, didn't do very much, was completely locked down (understandable) and cost $4000.

RFID chips are sufficiently disposable if you can find a use case for them, but they don't really add anything to the average grocery shopping experience. having to take every item out of your cart and pass it over a scanner is a desirable pattern for the grocery store, as it's a great way to prevent theft. They don't want to find a way to eliminate this interaction, so there hasn't been a whole lot of reason put RFID tags on everything in the grocery store.

Great point about the item-by-item interaction deterring theft. And of course it's not clear how you can use RFID to smooth purchase of items sold in bulk/by weight.

Checkout lines must also be a real profit center with all the high-margin impulse buy items (magazines, snacks, etc) placed there.

I agree, this is just a Cuecat + wifi, which is actually great. Scanning barcodes is really not that much fun, and can get frustrating because of moisture, wear or just plain hard to find barcodes. An RFID system could avoid much of this. That being said if it took them 5 years to figure out the economic model for delivery, I imagine cheap (free) barcodes was a major factor in this decision.

I like how it's a separate device - it's too bad it's only available on the west coast though. AmazonFresh reminds me of "Webvan". Webvan failed during the dot com bubble, maybe Amazon is trying to start this kind of business model up again. I think the grocery delivery service is a great idea, especially now with everyone being so connected. Webvan only failed because they expanded rapidy and weren't able to attract customers at their speedy pace, plus back then not everyone was so connected.

Does anyone know how they connect to WiFi? There's like two buttons and one beep for I/O.

(Half joking: Or is it a Speak Friend And Enter kind of thing, where you have to speak the WiFi credentials.)

(Full-on joking: you enter the credentials in binary) You press one of the buttons until it goes into AP mode and it beeps. Connect to it and provide your actual WiFi credentials and away it goes.

Can't do speech recognition since that's done in the cloud and won't work without a Internet connection.

Would guess you have to do some initial setup on some other way, maybe via USB connection to your computer.

It can run in AP mode and serves a webpage that asks for the key at which point it switches back to client mode.

Has anyone else noticed that this completely rips off Hiku? Or is this repackaging the same product?


Hi this is Rob one of the founders of hiku. A buddy of mine pointed me to the discussion going on here, great dialogue.

Like many have mentioned, we find the appeal of a dedicated device tends to be embraced more by non-techies. We like to say hiku is more Kathie Lee (http://tinyurl.com/mxjxml8) than Engadget (http://tinyurl.com/nbpyg97).

The part of hiku that 'remembers for you' is in market now (scan/voice, list on your iPhone), shops for you is coming (integrated commerce).

If any of you are interested in playing around with hiku, we would welcome your feedback. We are backordered but will begin shipping again end of this month. Use hackhiku at checkout and we'll knock off $20 (limited to the first 10 people).

We use our API externally for retailer integration, and are considering making that public or at least opening up more private access. So if you are interested in someday creating something with hiku, we would welcome your input there as well.

Happy to discuss more offline, rob@.

And the hiku does what, exactly? One of the most useless websites I've ever seen. It barely has any details on what the hiku is or what it does; and if I wanted more info, I'd have to go to their support section on another domain to peruse their "FAQ".

No thanks.

I wonder if this will be the death of Hiku? Amazon's product is definitely going to be cheaper than $79 price for Hiku with (obvious) heavy ties into the Amazon ecosystem.

I suppose they could try to pivot and cater to a different ecosystem (Google shopping express, or the like), but seems like an uphill battle.

Maybe Hiku could offer their services to the rest of the world? From its homepage, I don't get it whether its business model requires tie-in with a retailer.

Best idea ever, wow what a great product and functionality! This should be in every house! :-)

Amazon acts like a startup still. Good for them!

Grocery stores should be worried. Amazon is predator that will take on any market it thinks it can win. Pretty soon they will not only be competing against the store next door, but the Amazon grocery warehouse with all the advantages of scale and convenience.

How does this differ from people using the mobile app? Mainly for Amazon Fresh integration?

Agree, they should have implemented this functionality on the app itself vs creating yet another new proprietary device.

i think this is a big deal. When I am working in kitchen, i see lot of items needing refill, reordering etc...it is little cumbersome to stop your work, wash your hands and get the phone to take the note. Not to mention, once u pick your phone there are 100 hundred things going on - facebook, mails, texts etc to distract you for long time. Knowing this distraction, if I just say - "OK, I will just remember in my brain and will not pick up phone" then you know I never remember that task or things later. I think you can also use this device as your note taker incase you want to buy from somewhere else. Enjoy the convenience ;-)

Why was a separate physical device needed for this? It seems like a simple smartphone application would work just as well, if not better as I would assume virtually all of the target audience for this service already have a smartphone.

Go scan a bunch of barcodes on your phone, in varying light levels and angles. The process is pretty terrible, phone cameras cannot beat dedicated barcode scanners at actually scanning barcodes.

I assume the use case here is you're in the process of using up an item. The easier and faster Amazon can make it to order a new one, the more likely they are to get your business. If I'm cooking and I run out of flour, I'm not going to stop cooking, pull out my phone, unlock it, swipe over to the screen that has the Amazon app on it, tap that, wait for it to launch, click the button for Fresh, and then finally type (or speak). I'm just going to make a mental note and buy it later from Safeway.

But with Dash, it's just grab the Dash from whatever convenient location you keep it, speak into the Dash, and put it back. That's easy enough that I would do it, and Amazon would get my purchase.

Unfortunately, Amazon Fresh really kind of sucks (at least in SF), so the whole premise is flawed. Oh well.

This is a cool service to integrate with AmazonFresh. A similar promising alternative is https://www.rosieapp.com ... It's a pretty cool startup with similar goals.

You could also take it to a store and scan things there. See what you get, pay less.

I know someone who runs a book shop, and he frequently has people browse for books, only to buy them online later for slightly less.

Wait till a 2 year old gets ahold of it and scans everything 10 times.

I doubt Amazon would be stupid enough to leave this possibility unaccounted for. Even the most basic purchase on Amazon requires you to put in a password to confirm your purchase. Why would this be any different?

Or are you simply being a model HN contributor and nitpicking any little thing that comes to mind?

Amazon has had one click purchase for years on the web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click. The whole point is to not require re entering a password each time. In fact they hold the patent for it and have sued others for it.

You have attacked me for misinformation whereas you are the one misinformed.

EDIT: I am a Amazon Prime user and turned off one click because I saw my son clicking on stuff he wanted. And there is confirmation email. You basically have to rollback the purchase if you can. Sometimes you can't if it's shipped.

No, the Kindle Fire on release didn't lock out random purchases - in fact no password required for any app purchase. So there is precedent from Amazon, though they've probably learned.

Where do you see a keypad for this device? How will you enter a password?

In this case, you scan or say what you want, then confirm the order in a GUI before it ships.

And when you go to somebody else place, you like something, "ok, I will add it to my Amazon shopping cart", etc... So many use cases this is amazing.

Sounds like this would only real be useful for packaged, processed goods. I'd have trouble trusting the quality of perishable items over the internet...

Amazon Fresh is a little different.

The Fresh warehouses do have cold storage. They are delivered to you in totes/containers with appropriate amount of dry ice.

Same day delivery by drivers that directly work for Amazon.

Amazon Fresh produce is quite good in general

Now this feels like the future.

I am curious what the upgrade cycles of these products will end up being. Can Amazon charge a subscription and keep giving me a new one?

The :cue cat lives!

I see absolutely no reason why this couldn't have been a mobile app with a bar code scanner and voice recognition...

Probably because nobody wants to use mobile apps with bar code scanners.

Related: http://picturesofpeoplescanningqrcodes.tumblr.com/

Genius. I've always wondered how many people actually take the time to scan QR codes on posters and such. I mean, don't companies track QR code scan-through rates?

Which is the conventional wisdom (no one scans anything) but its not actually correct. I've done some QR tests which have picked up hits (not huge mind you but non-zero). There was also the story of the guy[1], on Sharktank, where one of his props was a QR code and he picked up customers who scanned it (from their TV) while watching the show.

It isn't common, that is for sure. And the bar code folks don't make it easy for folks. Simply publishing the bar code database would be a huge 'win' for barcode adoption.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/04/how-a-startup-accidentally-...

Interesting. Thanks for the link.

No posts on above tumblr as of now.

(That's the joke.)

Looks like there is also a mobile app.

I bet they built custom hardware for a couple reasons: 1. Custom hardware sitting around reminds you of Amazon and your ability to order. Having a new device feels more futuristic, which does seem logically odd. 2. Durability. While cooking etc, you dont' want to touch your phone. This looks very easy to clean/throw around. 3. Barcode scanner speed. Apps with cameras are much, much slower at recognizing barcodes than this. This removes a lot of interface. Just scan it and you're done -- no hassle switching apps, holding the camera just right, etc. I bet this feels more natural.

I see one - convenience. It takes much longer to unlock phone, open app, than scan instead of just scanning. Also probably easier to use by multiple users (kids might not have smartphones)

I won't cry over breaking this vs my $600 smartphone in the kitchen. I had to clean my wife's phone off just a day ago, as she was using it while baking and it was covered in flour.

> I see absolutely no reason why this couldn't have been a mobile app with a bar code scanner and voice recognition...

They have that: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.amazon.pri...

Barcode scanner, and voice recognition. It's not nearly as cool or convenient as a dedicated device though.

I guess it’s easier to scan with a dedicated device than with a mobile phone (“scan, scan, scan” vs. “open the app, take a picture, let it scan, take another picture, let it scan, etc”), plus you only need one device at home everybody can use without having to take your/their phone.

Have you ever tried to scan a barcode using a phone's camera? The process is pretty terrible, it takes forever to focus, and you better hope you have perfect light.

Compared to a dedicated barcode scanner, phones are pretty terrible for this.

It sounds like they are gunning for it to be an "appliance" of sorts. The same way very few people actually use cell phones as TV remotes, even though the software is out there.

In my experience, the camera takes too long to focus to really be practical for scanning many items. Also, it's marketed as a multi-user device, which a smartphone is not.

How does the voice feature work? Is it computer voice recognition, or does your voice get sent to a person to interpret?

actually it could be a combination of both. since amazon already have mechanical turk, it might make sense to fallback on manual interpretation.

It's automatic (computer) speech recognition.

It'll be interesting to see what Amazon does to continue to get more information on people's shopping habits.

If someone has an invite, can you please send me one as well. I don't have the Invite Code needed to participate.

If its real, this is going to revolutionize grocery shopping. Also, open up a new market for such devices.

It is only available in 3 cities, has technology easily deployable to smartphones, and the prices apparently aren't any better.

I always wish I could try amazonfresh, but like Google Fiber they are snails at deployment. And Amazon doesn't even have the "company has no experience with end user distribution" since that is literally their primary business.

When food became mp3's — Amazon Dash / Fresh = Apple iPod / iTunes. Well done, Jeff.

Didn't see this pointed out so far - The existing Amazon app can already scan bar codes.

So you zap your grocery needs with dash and flying robot delivers it within 24 hours....

This is the CueCat done right! Technology is similar but their is a clear use case.



next day what shows up, exactly?

6 granny smith apples?

a 15 pound bag of golden delicious?

3 MacBooks pro?


Dash connects to your home Wi-Fi network and works directly with your AmazonFresh account. Say or scan items into your Dash, and then view the list on your desktop or mobile device to purchase and schedule delivery.

You have to confirm the order.

You probably need to review the list on computer or phone to confirm the items, types, and quantity.

Amazon is making service backed devices. As opposed to selling them.

I like the simplified dedicated device for creating a low friction experience, however one downside of having this as a separate device rather than an app on your phone is that you are more likely to loose it, forget where you kept it, etc. etc.

I can't believe this is not an April Fools' Joke.

Fruits and vegetables to not have a bare code, right ? How to make it simple for those fresh products then ?

They do actually have a bar code. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_look-up_code

But it says you can also speak to it.

...press the mic button and say "bananas"?



How do I get a code?

I imagine every single product you order from AmazonFresh would have one. This would really be for re-orders.

He's talking about the sign up code you need to order a free device.

I'd imagine they're sending these out to Amazon Fresh users.

disruptive innovation at it's best.........

hook it up with an invite code :)

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