Eye Sightings

The Consumer Eyes Blog

October 24, 2014

 

With all of the hype around mobile apps, virtual reality and live media streaming, it can seem like today's internet has little in common with the "information highway" many of us remember from the days of AOL and Netscape Navigator. And yet, behind the scenes, the more traditional side of the web has been growing rapidly.  

The best example of this is probably Reddit, the staunchly web-1.0-styled network of message boards that has quietly expanded to massive popularity. Their "ask-me-anything" sessions have come to include major public figures like Neil deGrasse Tyson and President Obama, and Reddit members' involvement in the controversial Gamergate  conflict has demonstrated the collective influence its membership can wield. In 2013, a Pew study found that a full 6% of Americans are Reddit readers.

And now, Facebook has announced a new app, called Rooms, that brings the message board format to mobile. Anyone can create a room, on any topic they choose, and in a surprising move, you can choose to post under a pseudonym. Users can upload photos and video as well as text, but the combination of anonymity, boards centered around shared interests, and a scrolling feed interface suggest that Facebook is looking to capture a little bit of that early-internet magic for themselves.

October 16, 2014

Last week, we finally received our order of Soylent V1.1 (shipped, we presume, from a space station somewhere in the future) and today we sat down to give it a try. Soylent is a meal replacement, somewhere between a Jetsons-style meal-in-a-pill and the diet shakes of the early '90s. While a Soylent-only diet is possible, and it's that usage that has captured the media's imagination, the product's designers intend it to be used whenever eating a proper meal isn't possible.

In practice, it's certainly easier to make large batches - just pour a packet of powder into the included pitcher, fill with water, shake, add a vial of oil, and shake again. A scoop is included for when smaller amounts need to be measured out. The shaking stage is particularly crucial; like other powdered drinks, Soylent has a tendency to form pebbles that stay dry on the inside when mixed with water.

The result? Well, it doesn't really taste like much of anything. Maybe a little vanilla, a little oatmeal, some mildly acid flavors. This is probably for the best, though; if we were drinking this every day, any distinctive flavor would probably become unappealing after a while. And as it stands, Soylent seems like a great base for flavors we could add ourselves. Perhaps we'll mix a banana into the next pitcher.

Soylent brings up a lot of philosophical questions about the nature of food, but we don't think it represents a future as dark as some might claim; even as avid foodies, we can imagine situations when a quick glass of Soylent is better than cheap junk food - particularly if it tides us over between meals at our favorite restaurants.

 

October 2, 2014

 

Brooklyn's foodie scene just keeps growing; what started as a few farm-to-table restaurants and underground dining clubs has grown into an entire ecosystem. No other place is so closely watched by the big tastemakers - which is why we went to this year's Future Food Expo, part of Taste Talks, keen to interview the latest startups.

What we found is innovation across a huge spectrum of products and categories, from compostable party supplies to cooking apps to a cool concept in pop-up grocery stores. 

 

September 26, 2014

In your estimation, how often do low- and middle-income consumers cook at home? A recent study, published in the sociology journal Contexts examined that question in depth, and had some interesting findings. Vox interviewed one of the scientists behind the paper, and the resulting article is absolutely worth reading in full

But what impressed us most was that cooking is still a huge part of these consumers' lives - and it's not always positive. As researcher Sarah Bowen said, "We hear all of the time that Americans have stopped cooking. A lot of the families in our study were cooking every night, especially the poorest families. They couldn’t afford to eat fast food and a lot didn’t have cars. People were cooking a lot and that surprised me a little, because of how much we hear that the opposite is true. At the same time, they felt they weren’t cooking well enough. They felt like they didn’t have enough money and weren’t able to cook the right way or the way they should be."

In an era when we hear constant pressure from food pundits to only cook at home from scratch, this study seems to imply that there is still a significant opportunity for healthy, quick meal offerings for these harried - but increasingly health-conscious - consumers.

September 19, 2014

We recently had a chance to sit down with Jamie Wolfond, founder of the new furniture and product design company Good Thing NY. In the roughly two months since its founding, Good Thing has already drawn the attention of the design world. His philosophy around innovation stresses attention to every aspect of sourcing and manufacturing, from the very outset of the design process. By creating designs that take into account their materials' strengths from the beginning, Good Thing produces clever, elegantly simple products. Check out the video to learn more, and see the famous Emergency Bench being assembled!

 

And remember to check out all of our other Expert Eyes videos here.

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