MIZU Hotel Ricecooker
Project Overview
Cooking rice on a stovetop requires constant observation to avoid burning or over-boiling. Fortunately, this hassle is avoidable in modern kitchens due to the automatic rice cooker. While this appliance has evolved to offer many functions and different technologies, its overall form and use cycle have remained relatively stagnant over the past hundred years. 
Rethinking the role and application of the automatic rice cooker unveils new opportunities and improvements for this classic kitchen appliance. 
Duration: June 2021 - January 2022
Methods: Secondary and Market Research, 3D Prototyping, User Flows, CAD, Usability Testing
Type: School Project
Research & Insight
Rice is the primary source of energy for over half of the world’s population. Containing fibre, proteins, & vitamines, it plays a vital role against malnutrition.
History of the Rice Cooker
1920s and earlier: Kamado, earthenware cooking pots placed directly over open fires 
1940s: Mitsubishi Electric, Matsushita, and Sony produced simple electric rice cookers, described as tubs with heating coils
 1955: Toshiba introduced revolutionary rice cookers with a ‘bi-metallic’ strip, automatically stopping the boiling process
• 1956: Matsushita (now Panasonic) launched an automatic rice cooker, also meeting huge commercial success
1960: Electric rice cookers could be found in nearly half of all Japanese households
Product Use
Heating Methods
User Insights
Affinity map was used to synthesize the survey findings into user's likes, dislikes, and desires when it came to their rice cookers. 
Dash Mini Rice Cooker Investigation
To get a deeper understanding of the user journey and product function, a full analysis of the Dash Mini Rice Cooker was completed.
Product Autopsy​​​​​​​
Use Cycle
Pain Points
Concept Development & Ideation
Following research, target audiences were looked at, specifically the hospitality industry. 
The COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting impacts on hospitality, with the service evolving to be as contactless as possible. Sourcing a good meal while traveling has grown more difficult, as hotels have abandoned self-serve buffets, and not everyone is able to afford room service or to eat out for every meal. 
Therefore, the opportunity to cook in one’s own hotel room could be a solution. Introducing a multi-use appliance such as a rice cooker into hotel rooms would be a non-invasive and easy option. 
Since hotels serve a wide range of customers, the focus was placed on creating a product that was safe, easy to use, and simple to understand. Additionally, the product should not be moved around and should be easily serviceable.
User Testing
User testing trials were performed with simple cardboard mockups to assess a variety of features. The user was given the following scenario:
"You are a tourist who has just returned to your hotel after a long day. You are hungry but too tired to venture into the unfamiliar city to try to find food. Room service is too expensive...but the hotel provides a rice cooker & rice packets that you can cook yourself!" 
The user was then given the following instructions: 
1. Open the rice cooker. 
2. Pour rice inside
3. Pour water inside. 
4. Close the rice cooker and press on. 
5. Serve yourself the cooked rice. 
User Testing Findings
Various form factors and functionalities were specifically tested, including the opening mechanism, the access to the rice scoop, and the placement of the interface. 
Both methods of opening were found to be comfortable. Interestingly, opening from the front encouraged the user to move with and eat from the bowl. 
The user preferred to use the spoon they would eat with rather than the scoop, but storing it on the side was found to be the most convenient. 
Lastly, the top-angled interface was found to be the easiest to read. 
(Left) If the front opening method was to be used, space would need to be cleared for easier access.
(Center) The user wanted to remove the inner pot which could be dangerous when hot. 
(Right) The user had to walk to the counter to get water. They would prefer water nearby.
Concept Refinement​​​​​​​
Isolating the inner pot to prevent contact with a hot surface inspired a new innovation: Instead of scooping cooked rice out of a hot pot, rice could be released directly into the user’s bowl. 
This concept lead to a new form: A pot that released rice and sat on top of a serving bowl. 
Final Concept
MIZU is a hotel rice cooker that is safe, easy to use, and simple to understand. 
Using pre-provided single-serve rice packets, MIZU’s use cycle has been minimized to measure, turn on, and serve
To ensure the safety of every guest, the inner pot is concealed while hot so the user has zero contact with any hot surfaces while serving their rice. The step of scooping, which many users found frustrating, was completely eliminated with a unique aperture opening bottom.
Use Cycle
Product Context
A hotel serving tray is used to organize all components and accessories, including:
1. Pre-packaged rice in a variety of flavors
2. Water, for easy access
3. A spoon for serving
An inner pot marking indicates where to fill water, ensuring the optimal ratio for the quantity inside the rice packets. Cleaning and servicing are completed by hotel staff. 
Looks-Like Model
This model was completed in collaboration with technicians at Carleton University. The body and bowl were formed from polyurethane foam. The lid was modeled in CAD and 3D printed. It was then hand-sanded and hand-painted before being glued onto the foam body. 
MIZU makes the rice cooking process effortless. Ideal for applications ranging from hotels to offices to homes, MIZU is a safe, simple way to make rice. MIZU also offers hotels and other industries a contactless way to provide food service to their guests and users.
The danger of burning oneself is eliminated by the innovative bottom-aperture opening design.
For those seeking simple utility and safety, MIZU is the perfect solution. 
General Assembly
Results and Takeaways 
The final product met the design brief of being simple, safe, and easy to use. 
However, given the time constraints and the limitations presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, full testing of the product function with end users was not possible. 
If this project was to be taken up again in the future, the emphasis would be placed on a works-like model that could be tested with end users to validate its functionality. 
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