Q&A: Jake Sprouse, Head of Technology, Synapse Product Development
The smart kitchen of the future is being built today. Jake Sprouse, head of technology at SKS 2019 sponsor Synapse Product Development, spoke to us about the foodtech and smart kitchen markets:
What are the unique challenges your company is tackling within the foodtech or smart kitchen space?
In developing novel user interfaces we’re working at the forefront of sensing technology and machine learning. In particular, we’re researching technology and potential interface modalities that use computer vision and radar for gaze tracking, gesture detection, and object recognition. We want to see what visual context can be added to conversational voice interfaces to make them more natural. We’re also exploring the possibilities of embedding voice interfaces directly into appliances.
Who is Synapse Product Development?
We are a professional services firm that helps our clients develop breakthrough technologies and products. We bring together technical and market expertise from our work across a wide range of industries. In the smart kitchen space, we’re helping our clients develop solutions that augment chefs without replacing them, automating the tasks that get in the way and delivering better insights and control. We’re particularly interested in how technology can enable a more intuitive and flexible user interface between the chef and the kitchen.
Give us an important “origin story” moment in creating Synapse Product Development where you realized tech was disrupting your industry.
Seeing the explosion in the use of smart speakers has led us to think about how much more powerful they can be when augmented with visual context: what the user is doing, what/whom they are looking at and so on. Adding context has historically been prohibitively expensive for the consumer market, but in the past year or so we’ve seen that trends in other markets (like automotive) have driven prices to within reason, and with some thoughtful engineering, these technologies are close to being useful in the consumer appliance space.
What is Synapse Product Development doing differently? What are you disrupting, innovating, or inventing?
We are in the business of helping our clients transform their businesses through technology and service innovation. We’re playing a role at every stage of the food supply chain, from more efficient vertical farming technologies, to an automated grocery distribution center, to tools in the commercial and consumer kitchen. We bring together experts from myriad markets and engineering disciplines, and we are technology-agnostic in building solutions.
What’s Synapse Product Development’s future vision for how foodtech will change the way we think about and interact with food?
We don’t want to change the core relationship between people and food. Preparing and eating food is a tangible and sensory experience that technology cannot replace. We want to enhance sensors and connectivity to provide better information about what’s happening as processes progress, user interface technologies to provide more intuitive and lower friction control of your tools, and automation to remove the unnecessary tangential steps like washing up.
What are some of the challenges Synapse Product Development and/or others within your industry are facing?
With all the technology in our homes and kitchens, the promise is of more productivity, better performance, entertainment and even safety. But how do we design it so that it doesn’t get in the way and ruin the pure and simple experience of preparing and eating food with friends and family?