Rating: 3 WaterTowers
I was browsing through the Amazon web site looking for something cool for my wife for Christmas when I stumbled upon the SmartShopper.
It struck me that this could be the perfect product, and that if it worked as well as the reviews said it does, the SmartShopper could change Lori’s life forever.
Lori is a list person. Everything she does, or wants to do, is on a piece of paper in her purse. Everything. Over the years, I have tried to find ways to break her of the paper list habit. A long time ago I got her one of the first PDA’s…that did not work. After several variations and generations of electronic devices meant to organize ones life…no change. Paper lists abound to this day.
Idea of the SmartShopper
The idea is simple and quiet clever. I could say brilliant.
A large magnet on the back of the SmartShopper helps it to stick to your refrigerator door (as long as it is not stainless steel). When you are putting together your shopping list, you hit the “Record” button, say the name of the product you wish to add to your list and the SmartShopper, using voice recognition technology, adds that product to your list. When you are done, you simply print the list and take it to the store with you.
Perfect! If this works, I have FINALLY gotten Lori the perfect solution to her paper list. All she has to do is talk (something she does all the time) and print the list (she now has her paper list that she loves). It also accepts spoken input for errands (like going to the Post Office, Bank, etc). Simple and elegant…the almost perfect use of technology, if it works as advertised.
Does it work as well as advertised? Ah………no, but, with a bit of practice and patience it works pretty well.
Using the SmartShopper
After opening the present, and being greeted with a hohum “Oh great, another electronic list thing…thanks” attitude, I pulled the SmartShopper out of it’s box, put in 4 AA batteries, inserted one of the special rolls of paper (these are similar to register paper you get from the grocery store) and gave the SmartShopper a whirl.
Hmmm, not as easy to use as I thought, but, no real problems that a bit of reading of the manual (I hate to read manuals) did not solve. Maybe I’m just stupid, but, this should be brainless (translation: no need to read the manual) to use….even for me.
The first thing we noticed (not surprising) is that specific products are not included. So if Lori wants to add “Lowry’s Seasoned Salt” to her list. No can do. Rats. She tries “seasoned salt”….arrrghhh.
OK, lets look at the book of items in the database. “Seasoned salt” is not listed but there are several hundred items that are. If we keep the grocery list general then purchase specific brand names at the store, maybe that will work.
Problem #1: Not everything is listed so you need to familiarize yourself with the embedded list. Keep your list general (use brand names sparingly).
OK…I said the word “milk”. That worked. However, other items that I know are on the list did not work, in sometimes very funny ways. For example, I say “Apple Cider” and get a listing for “Anti Gas Medicine”. The SmartShopper lists three items that it thinks are what you said and you use the up and down arrows to “Select” the item you said.
Problem #2: The voice recognition needed adjustment (luckily, the SmartShopper has that capability).
So lets make a list. To show how this works rather than write about it, I made another potential Oscar nominated video. Note that I use only items that are pre-loaded into SmartShopper.
Before you watch the video here are some updated (Feb 13, 2009) usability information from Greg Wolf at SmartShopper:
1. I noticed in your video that you waited some time after is said “Speak Now” to say the name of the item, and that the SS was having problems recognizing what you said. If you say the name of the item right after the beep, the SS will be able to recognize your item the first time.
2. Another thing that might help you with the voice recognition is saying phrases as individual words. As an example, instead of saying “FrozenPizza” say “Frozen” “Pizza”. This is in the section of your user guide called “Recording Tips”.
This does help. Thanks, Greg! 🙂
Features of the SmartShopper
In addition to using voice recognition to generate a list of errands and items to buy (a grocery list), the smartShopper has a number of features, some of which include the ability to:
1. Improve the speakers voice recognition.
2. Add items to the list
3. Add categories for the items (“Snacks”, “Fresh Produce”, etc)
4. Delete items.
5. Change the mic sensitivity and speaker loudness.
6. Keep track of two different lists
7. Add quantity to the items.
Features it Needs / Improvements
1. A USB port to connect to a computer.
Adding items now is a bit cumbersome and time consuming even though it uses voice recognition to help you spell the item (very cool). My opinion is that if the SmartShopper was connected to a computer, it would be easier to add items and categories.
2. Better voice recognition
Although it has the ability to improve voice recognition for an item, it only works ok. Improving voice recognition for items you add to the list does not work well at all. Not sure why. I’ll keep trying.
Cost and Concerns
The SmartShopper cost about $70.00 to purchase. Not bad. It comes with 3 paper rolls that do not use ink. Once those rolls are used up, you can purchase three additional rolls for about $8.00 from SmartShopper.
Note that we went to Staples and they did not have rolls of this size. I am a bit concerned about the need to purchase special rolls of paper. What happens if we love the SmartShopper, use it all the time, then they go out of business?
I will be trying to make my own rolls…I’ll let you know how that goes.
Absolutely totally great idea that needs just a bit more work.
The user (Lori) needs to change. For some people this is hard to do, but, once they get over that barrier, I feel the SmartShopper, witha little better voice recognition, could be a valuable and useful tool moving forward.
How much Lori uses this is still up in the air. So far, she has not used it other than making a “demo” list. It is on the refrigerator ready to go….