Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Off Topic: Amazon Dash, the awesome CueCat of 2015

For about 30 years, breathless news stories have been telling us that we want smart homes, including refrigerators that can automatically see when we're low on milk and order it for us.

This is to save us from the .0000025 seconds
that it takes to open the refrigerator door and see that we're out of milk.

Amazon Dash is the product of the same Refrigerator Needs to be Connected thinking: the unnecessary product that fulfills an imaginary need (but that doesn't stop Time from heralding it as "awesome.")   It's a series of individual wi-fi controlled buttons that you put all over your house so that you can order the product from Amazon immediately, without walking the 10 steps to your computer.

For example, if you put a Tide button in the laundry room, and you notice that you need laundry detergent, you push the button and shazam! Two days later, the Tide shows up from Amazon.  You can order juice, dog food, and toilet paper in the same way--because getting things a few days later when you need them immediately is much better than getting them right away.

Various news sites swear that this isn't an April Fool's prank, but I wonder. 

1.  Why would anyone want to look at, say, a Tide button every week for several months just so that the one time in 3-6 months you need it, you can press a button?
2. Why wouldn't it be faster, cheaper, and easier to buy the products when, like most people living within range of a grocery store, you go to the grocery store?
3. Wouldn't the button and its branding fade into the background, so that you'd forget to use it anyway?

And, in the imaginary needs department: I can see why it would be a marketer's dream to have tiny ads stuck to cupboards and walls all over your house, but is it your dream?

Another entry in the "technology is always cool" connected-refrigerator line of thinking was the now-defunct CueCat.  Remember those from the year 2000?  

The idea was that you would somehow get a CueCat (Madio Mack apparently gave out the CueCats, but I never got one) with a unique serial number.  You would then read the ads in the newspaper (how quaint!), scan the special CueCat code, and then get even more ad information when you looked on your computer.  In the meantime, the CueCat people got information about your consumer preferences.

To CueCat's surprise, consumers seemed to be pretty happy with the level of advertising they were already being bombarded with, and the CueCat was a failure.  They were an advertiser's dream of how consumers would ideally behave instead of something that was actually needed. Ironically,
 they now have a second life as a barcode scanner--an actually useful item--on LibraryThing.

So I'm picturing the conversations now:

"You know what this laundry room needs?  More Tide branding!"

"Tiny velour guest towels that don't dry anything? Check. Tiny floral-scented soaps that no guest will use? Check. What else does this bathroom need in the way of decor?  A branded Dash button so you can order toilet paper every 3 months, that's what.  Tells our guests we care about them."

"Who says dogs can't read?  Mine have been ordering 26-pound bags of dog food every week since we installed the Dash button and they started pushing it.  And the FedEx delivery person says he's never had such a good workout!"

Your thoughts? 


Anonymous said...

I have a cuecat! I use it for librarything. :)

sophylou said...

QR codes! Are! The! Future! (NOT).

Seriously, I once saw a QR code on a billboard. Why? Why?

Belle said...

I have a cuecat for library thing too! And I love the silly thing. Also love library thing....

undine said...

nicoleandmaggie, belle--now I want to get one for librarything--thanks! I have been trying to make do with a scanner app, but it's too cumbersome.

sophylou--why on a billboard, indeed! I didn't get the point of those--a code to take you to a web site where you could read more advertising--and now I see they're on the way out.