The way I see it, society can be carved into two easily identified groups: those who notice when they're running low on milk, eggs, what-have-you and make a note for their next shopping trip; and those who open their fridge and realize it's too late.
I proudly stand in the latter camp, so in theory, the WePlenish Java should be perfect for me. This smart container automatically reorders your favorite snack, coffee, gluten-free protein bar - whatever you choose from the list of compatible "consumables" - when it detects you're running low. Next thing you know, there's an Amazon package at your doorstep with your order. The only thing you have to do is refill the container.
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WePlenish was actually born on Kickstarter, where it raised only $14,546 of its $50,000 goal. While that made it a failure (Kickstarter operates an all-or-nothing policy) the company went to manufacturing anyway, and orders are now shipping to buyers.
Setting up the Java is pretty simple. You download the app, connect the box to your Wi-Fi via a button on the back, then sign in with your Amazon account and choose your item. The Java only works with Amazon Dash products, but there's about 90 of them supported right now.
Then, you just leave it be. The Java uses a weight system: when the pile is light enough for the container to deduce it's running low, you'll get a notification telling you a re-order is imminent. You're given a bit of a heads up here so you can choose to delay the order - by 3 days, 1 week or 2 weeks - or the option to change your item. This safety mechanism stops the Java from going berserk and ordering 200 Nestle coffee creamers when you were, in fact, planning to switch to the salted caramel.
I also simulated knocking over the Java (read: I knocked it over) to see if I could fool it into a panic re-order, but even gravity couldn't trick it. You win this round, snack box.
Dash buttons have always felt superfluous - this makes more sense
WePlenish claims this is the world's first smart container integrated with Amazon Dash. While there's unlikely to be a Guinness World Record set aside for that title, it's still an intriguing idea. The Java works much like Amazon's Dash buttons, circumventing almost all required effort to bring items from Amazon's warehouse to your door.
But where Dash buttons have always felt a little superfluous, putting the same functionality inside the container (and making it autonomous) makes a hell of a lot more sense to me. Also, Dash buttons are ugly.
And before you say it, no, the WePlenish Java isn't much to look at either. It's a hunk of cheap plastic, but a hunk of plastic for $40. To its credit it does also run on batteries, which seems a rarity these days.
Do I need this in my life? I don't think so. I see this finding a more essential purpose in a shared office, where it could take out the minor headache of remembering to keep certain items stocked. But that said, the idea has grown on me, and to return to my opening point I'm exactly the sort of person a device like this would benefit. I do also think it makes more sense to build the Dash functionality into household items rather than make us find space for garish Amazon buttons. Not just that, it seems an inevitability.
The next logical step is a smart fridge that orders food when it detects supplies are low. Samsung is ostensibly the frontrunner to achieve this, though as ever, I wouldn't count Amazon out. You know those Amazon Go stores that have started popping up, replacing checkouts with computer vision to "see" what you're putting in your basket?