Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Blue Apron is a virtual reality company

Blue Apron is a tech company in the sense that its product is not meals, or ingredients, but simulacrum. What it delivers is the idea of creating a home-cooked meal from fresh ingredients, without the tedious shopping and chopping work that that would otherwise require. What Blue Apron delivers is not exactly convenience -- ordering takeout is a lot more convenient -- but the perception that you are doing something complicated and real and primal while you are actually, through the miracle of technology, doing something much easier. Blue Apron is a virtual-reality company.

Virtual reality (and augmented reality) is a booming tech sector, and simulacrum is a central product of the modern technology industry: Facebook Inc.'s business, after all, is creating the perception that you are maintaining meaningful friendships with hundreds of people while you are actually, through the miracle of technology, clicking icons on a screen.


Famously, Bloomberg's Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski discovered that you could replace the physical work of the [Juicero] machine by just squeezing the bags with your hands until juice comes out. But the machine, for all of its overengineering, is not really there to perform physical labor. It's there to perform conceptual magic: The bag of stuff is in the category "ingredients"; the juice that comes out is in the category "food," and by putting it in the machine and pushing a button, you have transformed the ingredients into food. You have Made Juice Fresh At Home. If you just squeeze the bag yourself, it might as well be Capri Sun.