To cleanse the palate, you could not write a more ridiculous parody of gadget fetishists overcomplicating simple tasks for the gee-whiz thrill of it than this. It’s a Tom Wolfe gag in a book about Silicon Valley come to life.
Of course it’s geared at wealthy health nuts with more cash than brains. Just as Wolfe would have wanted it. Here’s how the Times described Juicero’s device in a story published last March. At the time it retailed for a breezy $700 but has since dropped to nearly half that:
Inside the machine is a series of gears and metal plates that exert 8,000 pounds of pressure on packs of chopped fruits and vegetables…
Each pack has a QR code on it. A camera in the machine scans the code on each pack and, using Wi-Fi, checks in with an online database. If the pack is no longer fresh, or has been deemed contaminated, the machine won’t press it. If the pack is O.K., the gears start turning and out squirts the juice.
It’s a press with a bunch of connectivity bundled in, all to guarantee that you get the freshest juice possible from the pre-produced packs. There are just two problems, according to Bloomberg. One: You don’t actually need the connectivity to make sure the juice is fresh.
The device also reads a QR code printed on the back of each produce pack and checks the source against an online database to ensure the contents haven’t expired or been recalled, the person said. The expiration date is also printed on the pack.
Two, as you’ll see below: You, uh, don’t actually need the press. You can just squeeze the packs with your hands. “Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half. The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes,” notes Bloomberg. Two Juicero investors were reportedly “taken aback” to discover that the fancy gizmo at the heart of this idea is completely superfluous to the actual product. Only two?
What this is, it seems, is really just a juice subscription service with a steep registration fee that comes with a wholly unnecessary machine as a sort of “complimentary” gift. You can’t get the Juicero packs sent to your home unless you fork over $400 for the machine first, so you pay your “fee” and the shipments begin. And then you have a nice conversation piece sitting on your countertop for your next conversation with friends over who owns the most useless “Internet of Things” device.
Exit question: What does Juicero do now? The smart move would be to dump the machine and bottle the juice like companies the world over have been doing for decades but then you lose the next-gen doodad that captured everyone’s imagination. The only solution is to make the packs much, much thicker until you really do need a machine to press them, right?