Do We Have Milk?

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Advances in physical computing are changing the way we interact with our environment. These changes can influence how we go about doing our day-to-day activities, such as food organization. To explore the connection between the physical world and the digital world, we focused on a single universal question to find a way to merge these two worlds more intuitively into everyday life.

We’ve all been there. You pour a bowl of cereal, or a cup of coffee. Go to the fridge. No milk. Maybe you’re already at the grocery store in the dairy aisle and wonder, “How much milk do I have left at home?” What if you could take a peek into your fridge anytime, anywhere?

To monitor the amount of the remaining milk, we attached a weight sensor to the bottom of a milk jug to send the weight values to your phone. When the milk reaches dangerously low levels, you get an alert on your phone reminding you to get milk while using your current location to map nearby grocery stores.

But sometimes you need milk for more than just a bowl of cereal. You can also use the app to check the remaining levels of milk before you receive the alert.

Done. Got milk.

Why did we use a milk jug? For our non-Canadian friends that may be unfamiliar with the phenomenon known as milk bags, a 4-litre package comes with three milk bags that are usually stored in either a jug or a pitcher.

With this in mind, we also prototyped a companion weight sensor to monitor a drawer in the fridge used to hold the additional milk bags to get the combined weight of the remaining milk.

It’s easy to imagine all of the different ways to implement this idea. The natural inclination would be to track multiple items, or incorporate other elements like a recipe database. There are already “smart fridges” on the market that have various food management features. The downside is the features are built into the fridge itself, which makes it expensive and sometimes complicated to set up. In addition, while the smart fridges do have some features that interact with the mobile phone, there isn’t much communication with the person and their environment.

By using phone notifications and maps in the Milk? app, it goes from being just an organizational tool to interacting with the person by “reminding” you to get more milk and using your physical location to show you where to get it.

Although this experiment revolved around milk, the idea has broader implications that extend beyond the milk itself. How can this idea impact the way we organize our lives and the way we interact with objects using the digital capabilities available to us? The possibilities are as endless as our imagination.

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