Q&A With Mark Rolston, Chief Creative of Argo Design

Once or twice a week over the next few months, we'll be sharing insights from one of our speakers about the opportunities and challenges the industry faces while also hearing a little about how they got started. Today's Q&A is with Mark Rolston, Founder and Chief Creative of Argo Design, who will speak as a panelist at the Smart Kitchen Summit on the panel, "Designing User Experiences For The Smart Kitchen". You can read more about Mark here.

Mark Rolston, Argo Design

What problem is your company trying to solve that current kitchen or food industry technology doesn’t?
Rolston: Well, we might be a little different than some of the companies participating in this conference in that we’re a design firm focused on a broad range of problems. But one of our areas of focus is trying to solve for a growing range of basic computing problems in the home. People want what computers can do for them but the current modes of interaction- mice, keyboards, and touch screens - aren’t always suitable for environments like the kitchen. They are messy places and our hands are otherwise occupied. So the question becomes, how can I enjoy the advantages of using a computer but in a manner that’s compatible with the context of a kitchen and cooking. To solve for this much of our work is focused on new modes of interaction such as wearables, projected interfaces, and voice control.
Tell us about an important ‘origin story’ moment in creating your product or founding the company. 
Rolston: Our vision centers around an idea we call ‘room-scale computing’. This concept entails interacting with a computer in busy, sometimes messy environments like the kitchen. We came to vision from years of working on advances in touchscreen and mobile computing. We realized the obvious next step was to move these capabilities out of the office and into the wild. And with that move would come many new challenges but also lots of interesting possibilities.
What’s the most exciting aspect about the fusion of technology and kitchen for you?
Rolston: It’s quite simple- In the kitchen our focus is on the process and art of cooking. Technology can give us a hand in these moments, but we don’t want it to distract us from enjoying the natural process. We could enjoy computer interfaces that let us engage things like menus, cookbooks, instructions, and calculators. Those things can increase our enjoyment and skills in cooking. But only if they work with us and don’t get in our way.
What is the biggest potential pitfall do you believe the smart kitchen industry need to avoid to realize its potential?
Rolston: Cooking is a very ‘analog’ and visceral activity. Things such as preparing vegetables, cutting meat, and pounding out dough are messy, hands-on tasks. Any technology that gets introduced into the kitchen has to be compatible with that environment.
What do you think will be the biggest change technology will bring to the kitchen and foodtech space over the next 10 years?
Rolston: If we do our job right, anyone will be able to cook like an expert. And experienced chefs will be able to explore new tastes and raise the art of cooking to new heights.

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