Which Machines Should Be Smart?


In the 20th century,  Proctor-Silex made a smart toaster with a Bread Brain. We can’t vouch for the intelligence of the toaster, but it’s one of the smarty machines that makes us wonder what the point is of making machines smart.

Sure, the machines in our factory benefit from sensors and AI. When they can predict that their valves are about to need replacement, they can save us a lot of time and heartache. If they can reliably identify a workpiece and follow the corresponding procedure, we appreciate it.

But…a bread brain? Do we really need a taste that can suss out the fact that we’re popping in a bagel and give us just the right toasting experience to go with our schmear?


What about the laundry room?

One of the newer smart options is the wi-fi enabled washer and dryer combo. It’s not going to answer our emails or even play our favorite Taylor Swift songs, so what good is it to have a smart washing machine?

More to the point, what good is it to have a smart dryer. We know that it will not reach into the washer and transfer the laundry to itself. We’ve tried to get it to do that. But there must be some value to it or we wouldn’t be seeing it so often, right?

Whirlpool and other smart laundry appliance makers have helped us put together this list of tasks your smart washer and dryer can take on:

  • You can use your phone or virtual assistant to manage your washing machine. If you’ve never previously felt a desire to manage your laundry room, you might not change your mind once you can.
  • They can advise you on which of their `14 different cycles to use for special items like swimsuits.
  • They can download additional cycles, in case the original 14 weren’t enough.
  • You can use remote messaging to tell your washer when to start a cycle. Since you would have to add the laundry soap and put in the clothes before starting the machine, it’s not completely clear how this would be a benefit, but you can do it.
  • You can also stop your washer in the middle of a cycle, remotely. Again, we don’t know why you would want to do this. Maybe this is for people who step into the shower before realizing that their washers are running.
  • After you’ve chosen the right washing machine cycle with their help, they can automatically advise the dryer to match that cycle with its settings. You have to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer yourself.
  • The dryer can discern when it would be good to use steam to get wrinkles out of your clothes.
  • They can’t fold the clothes or even transfer them from the washer to the dryer, but they can automatically text a member of your household and ask them to do it. This is the robot overlord scenario we’ve heard so much about.
  • They’ll also alert you when your clothes are ready, which is not so very different from telling you to go fold your clothes.
  • They can accept voice commands. Again, they won’t transfer the clothes or fold them so we’re not sure what kind of commands they’re thinking about here.
  • They’ll tell you when their valve needs replacing — or whatever kind of trouble they can get into. Some will even show you videos that walk you through the process of clearing their vents or what-have-you. Once more, this is the machine telling the humans what to do, not the other way around.
  • Factory or home

  • Wi-fi enabled home appliances may be a solution in search of a problem. We’re all for the smart factory, though. Maybe it will just take a while to see the benefits of the smart laundry room.

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