Team Moonstruck

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Re-Designing the Rice Cooker Interface

The market for rice cookers has exploded in the past few years due to a combination of growth in the Asian markets combined with an increased interest in healthier eating in Western markets. This has resulted in increased interest in improving upon the base rice cooker design. New automation features began appearing in rice cookers such as delayed start, increased cooking settings, more advanced heating control, and the ability to cook a variety of foods beyond just rice.

These additional features have caused new interface design issues that were not present in the simple models of the past - the original design usually had only two settings, "Warm" and "Cook". The additional features have been added at such a breakneck pace that in many designs it is clear little thought went into the interface, or the interface was heavily optimized for cost, removing usability.

Beyond the control interface, the basic interaction with the rice cooker is not extremely clear to novice users in emerging markets who may not have grown up with the appliance in their home. At the simplest level, the user must add a mixture of water and rice into the cooker. The ratio of this mixture, though, relies on the type of rice and desired texture, and must properly be scaled for the amount of rice being cooked. The vast majority of cookers do little the help users through this process, instead expecting that the user will refer to the manual to determine the magic mixture.

Further complicating many cookers is the global market that the rice makers are sold in. Many customers find that the instructions for the rice cooker either are poorly written in their native language, or simply non-existent. This is exacerbated by new interfaces that must include text on the buttons, which may be unreadable to a significant portion of the user base. Interfaces that can be understood by a global audience would be a vast improvement and increase manufacturer's market size.