The comforting smell of home baking filled the air during our first Great Digital Bake Off in Plymouth last Friday. Meanwhile, the clatter of pans, the whirling of whisks and the voices of Amazon Echo and Google Home reading out recipes to the eager participants provided a soundtrack for the day.
In a new and slightly experimental workshop, participants were given the chance to try out voice assistants, Amazon Echo and Google Home, to provide them with ingredients and instructions for baking the perfect cake. After an introduction on how to use the devices, participants competed with their peers to make the best cake. The workshop was part of the Positive People project, which is designed to help people build their confidence and skills. The session was organised by Pop+ and Cosmic, who are both partners on the Positive People project. Social and digital inclusion are integral to this project and innovative workshops like these help people to break the barriers of using technology, meet new people and have fun too.
“Hey Google, can you give me the ingredients for a Victoria sponge cake?” asked Sarah, one of the participants at the workshop.
“Okay, how about Mary Berry’s perfect Victoria sandwich?” Google asked in response. “Would you like to hear the ingredients?”
“Yes, that sounds good”.
“Okay, great. Let’s get started”, Google responded in her light and breezy voice. Then she continued by reading out measurements for the ingredients.
In another corner of the room, Zoe spoke to her device, “Alexa, can you tell me a recipe for a chocolate cake?”
Alexa apologised, “Sorry, I don’t know a recipe for salmon and coriander bake. Would you like to hear a recipe for sage and onion stuffing instead?” Admittedly, the devices had the occasional hearing problems, but after a few technical difficulties, Alexa found a delicious chocolate cake recipe and the participants got on their way with baking.
Step-by-step, the devices guided the participants through the recipes until it was time to pop the cakes in the oven. “The cake needs 25 minutes on the middle shelf at 190 degrees. Would you like me to set a timer?” Alexa asked.
While the cakes were baking, participants were guided in using the iPads and they were introduced to Pinterest - an app and website that allows people to share inspiration and ideas for everything you can think of. Together they explored cake-decorating techniques and examples that they could use to make their cakes stand out from the crowd. They were also given some tips on using YouTube and finding baking channels to guide their decorating process. Through this, the participants were facilitated with digital skills they could continue to use at home to aid their baking.
*Beep beep beep* Google alerted the group that their cakes were ready to come out of the oven.
“What better way to spend a Friday!” exclaimed Stephanie as she pulled her perfectly golden cake from the oven. No time was wasted as she went straight back to her table and confidently proceeded to ask Google Home for the next steps for filling her Victoria sponge cake.
It didn’t take long for the participants to feel comfortable with talking to their assistants, and it gave the staff a chance to do the washing up, knowing the group were in the safe hands of their devices! Zoe even spent the lunch break looking up prices of Google Home with the intention of getting one for herself.
Overall the day was a great success. Stephanie in particular went home beaming after she received first place for her cake. “I’ve never won anything. I didn’t think I could win this”.
Cosmic are planning to hold another Digital Bake off in Torbay this June, with the Torbay Community Development Trust. If you would like to get involved or find out more about the Positive People project, please visit our website at www.positive-people.org.uk and go the ‘Contact Us’ section.