Device of the week 3: Amazon Dash Wand with Alexa – Wireless assistant

Groceries have never been easier. And humans have never been lazier. This device helps you find recipes, convert cups to ounces, buy and reorder essentials, find nearby restaurants and more – all you have to do is say it or scan a barcode.

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The amazon Dash Wand is wireless and runs on double AA batteries. Also, a phone will be needed to register this device for it to run. Being voice activated, a user just simply needs to mention the dish they want to cook eg. ‘mushroom alfredo pasta’, and Alexa (a Siri equivalent) replies with the ingredients needed.

It is a true household device as you’re also able to command the device using your voice to dim the lights, lock the door, control temperatures and more.

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  • Well-designed

The item is water-resistant and this is an extremely practical point as the device will be highly found in the kitchen in the danger of liquid items. Furthermore, some thought also went behind the item’s placement where having a magnetic feature can allow users to stick it on the fridge where the groceries are found.

  • Convenient and handy item

The amazon dash wand saves you the extra effort and clicks to manually search for recipes or the time of your order arrival etc. This gives it some magic in its user experience by saving them time and getting things on the go with such minimal effort. You are now able to control different house appliances with your voice using this device.

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  • Close product features to Siri and apps

However, while it all seems magical – it seems to remind me of Apple’s Siri altogether. The same level of features can be done on the Siri App, apart from being directly linked to the Amazon app, which is actually not much a biggie here. The other functions are also similar to other internet of things such as a house appliance app that acts as a remote control.

  • Magic of device.. isn’t really that magical

It may seem really fuss-free and convenient to say something and have it added to your grocery list but the user still has to open the phone app to manually check out after adding it into their list. Hence, the device seems to create a superficial sense of convenience and luxury, where the main functionality can be further improved.

Improvements to the device


This device can be configured in several languages, which gives it a potential to be used also as a portable language translation device. Currently, it detects English (U.S., UK), German, French (France, Canada), Italian, Spanish (Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia), Portuguese (Brazil), Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Russian, or Dutch. Hence, it will be innovative to make use of this feature as a helpful cross-cultural communication tool.

Portable Language Translation Device

A portable language translation device. A way to accentuate its value as a useful interactive device for its market would be to combine the functions of these two devices together.

Alternative uses

  • Question-and-answer device

With its portable size and interactive voice command feature, it is handy for a question-and-answer situations. Therefore, it can be used for a wide spectrum of scenarios. For instance, in the museum, where visitors who want to know more about the artworks can use this device and saves the scheduled physical tours and guides. It could also be used as a device to provide directions when entering a huge venue eg. themepark or mall, where users can collect these device at the entry. This saves them the trouble of downloading apps to facilitate their trip.

In general, this device is useful but slightly impractical as its features could be embedded into a phone app itself to command instructions to appliances.






Device of the week 2: Sensory substitution device – EyeMusic

When I asked my friends if they think it’s possible to see with their ears, they looked at me as if I was absurd. Indeed it sounds out of your mind at your first time hearing that. However, it’s been long known that blind people are able to compensate for their loss of sight by using other senses, relying on sound and touch to help them “see” the world. It was indeed made possible with a sensory substitution device (SSD), named EyeMusic.


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Made possible by a team of researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, they’ve created a software programme that translates visuals into audio that enables the blind to “see”. The device itself looks like any normal pair of sunglasses but with a special camera implanted on it and passes this data on particular sensors.

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Using a range of musical tones, it develops a precise combination of melodies and sounds, various for each and every of the objects of the environment. For example, using EyeMusic people can distinguish an apple from a banana or an orange from a lemon, barely touching the fruit.

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It works by representing the height of objects by the pitch of the sound – tall objects are high-pitch; low objects are lower pitch. The width of an object is represented by the duration of the sound while colour is represented by different musical instruments including the violin, trumpet and organ and different colour.

Pros and cons

  • Brain stimulation

An advantage of this device is definitely how it has provided the opportunity to the visually impaired to experience a sense of sight, through the use of pitch, tone, duration etc to identify an object. Some might not have experienced anything close to visuals in their lifetime but this sensory substitution device allows them to do so, activating a very specific area of the visual cortex

  • Distinctiveness

An interesting feature of EyeMusic is that it distinguishes not only different but specific shades of a colour, with every shade assigned a tone. This comes in handy when needed to separate objects distinctively where the tone of the object is important.



  • PortabilityThe device itself is a wearable and easily portable, making it convenient for the user. However, it seems that this version needs to be connected to another device (laptop/computer) for it to work. This leads us to the next disadvantageNew technology
  • Technology keeps up really fast and new technology offers more advanced ways of substituting sensory more than ever before. These exciting new devices can restore sight to the blind in ways never before thought possible. Eg. Google glasses, which are light and wearable on-the-go. EyeMusic has to constantly keep up to its game to match with the new technology or else it will turn obsolete

Alternative uses

  • Visual rehabilitation

Apart from providing as a sensory substitution device, it can be used for research purposes to study brain function. The information captured could help facilitate in other technology developments in the similar area or beyond.

Design tool

  • With the device’s distinguishing colour tone feature, that aspect of technology can be adopted for people doing colour theory/ design related works where colour is an important to deal with. It can help to minimize errors in the output of the work