Team members Anubhav and Rajan frequently make smoothies for breakfast, often times throwing in whatever ingredients we have in our fridge. As health conscious individuals we like to think these smoothies are nutritious starts to our day, but do we know for sure? Many people assume their homemade smoothies are the fast track to a more healthy lifestyle, and will fit in with their diet plans (low-carb, low sugar, low calorie..etc.). Often times this is not the case, and your smoothie may or may not contain the nutritional benefits you think it does leading you down the wrong path (rabbit hole). That's where comes in.

What it is is an add-on module that creates a smart blender experience to your existing smoothie making machine! Place your blender cup on the scale and tell Alexa you are ready to make a smoothie. This will prompt Alexa to ask what your first ingredient is. Tell her your first ingredient (ex. "Bananas") and add your desired amount into the cup. The scale will measure the mass of of the ingredient and sends it to the ios app for nutritional analysis. Visualize the contents, nutritional breakdown, and ratios of your ingredients in real time as you add them to the smoothie, and when your finished save your recipe to your profile. Share it on Facebook to show to your friends and family just how healthy you really are!

How we built it

On the Hardware side, we used a load cell to measure weight and act as a digital scale. We built this into our scale base which we laser cut out of wood. The cell, along with an on/off button and LCD, connect to an ESP32 micro controller which has WiFi capabilities. Using a RestAPI library our hardware communicated with our backend, sending weight values and checking for new ingredients. We created an Alexa skill which asked the user for ingredients and sent the data to the back end. These values were updated on the LCD. We also created an Alexa skill which prompts the user for ingredients and walks them through the process. The Alexa extracts only the ingredient from what the user says and sends this to the backend. Additionally, we created an iOS app to visualize the smoothie. We focused heavily on UX and data visualization. The app displays the smoothie and its ingredients in real time. It uses the Nutritionix API to calculate the nutritional value of the smoothie based on the weight of each ingredient. It also works with Facebook to allow users to share their smoothie with friends!

Challenges we ran into

The various different layers of our project meant that we encountered many different challenges throughout the process. The hardware required constant debugging, re-soldering, drilling, and reworking in order to make even small amounts of progress. We were working with unfamiliar modules such as the ESP32 micro controller in order to read from the sensors and send the data to the back end over WiFi. Often times we were missing the exact components we needed meaning we had to go about hooking up the hardware in a roundabout manner. In addition, our sensors were just broken and we spent hours debugging them just to conclude the device itself did not work.

On the software side, we found difficulty finding and nutrition API that had all the data we wanted. As we were looking for very specific nutritional information, many API's were insufficient. Finally, communicating between all the different technologies was of key importance given how interdependent each layer was. This process lots of testing and going back and forth sending sample data between components.

What we're proud of

Despite all our issues with hardware we were able to package our prototype in a very nice-looking box and have the scale on top! We had relatively seamless integration between our hardware and the backed, and were able to plan and implement a natural flow and user experience incorporating Alexa. Our ios app is also well designed, responsive, and presents a large amount of information in a concise and elegant manner. We had a very expansive tech stack, that involved a lot of software, firmware, hardware, and even woodwork and machining. This was a learning experience for every member of our team as we were all exposed to technologies we had never worked with before. Thankfully, this project was perfect for our team and given our excellent communication, and combined strengths we were able to create a product we are proud of.

Our team learned the importance of solid planning when creating a product from the ground up. We had to plan our every aspect of the flow of information as it related to the user in order for them to have a seamless experience. This taught us a lot about product design and management. We also gained valuable experience with networking and transmitting data between different technologies in order to create one cohesive product.

Coming to a kitchen near you

Team Tiny Tofu will continue developing and iron out all the hardware. We will get whatever parts we were missing and create as small and stylish of a package we can for our final project. We hope to test out our product in our own apartment, followed by our friends and gain feedback in order to make changes. If all proves well, you may see a in you're own kitchen in the future!

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