Electric Imp guest blogger Zé Pinto Ferreira is designer of Mellow, a imp-powered sous-vide machine now available for pre-order.

Are you familiar with Bret Victor?

Bret is an inventor and activist, and he’s been an enormous influence in how I think about my place in the world.

“As a technologist, you can recognize a wrong in the world. You can have a vision of what a better world could be. And you can dedicate yourself to fighting for a principle. Social activists typically fight by organizing but you can fight by inventing.”

The principle Bret fights for is that creators need an immediate connection to what they’re making. I don’t mean to imply that Bret has endorsed this post in any way, but his principle is why we’ve chosen to use the Electric Imp connectivity platform for Mellow.


Mellow is a sous-vide machine that takes orders through your smartphone and keeps food cold until it’s the exact time to start cooking. For those unfamiliar with sous-vide (French for “under vacuum”), it is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath or temperature-controlled steam environment. The intention is to cook the item evenly, and not overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same “doneness” – ensuring that the food is juicier and tastier.

Because Mellow is controlled through your phone it can maintain food at refrigerator temperatures from anywhere. No matter what your schedule, you’ll have amazing food ready to go when you want it. Duck confit can cook through day and night until you can take the bones out with two fingers. A salmon fillet will be kept chilled until it’s cooked to the fragile state of perfection. Everything can be tailored to your taste and scheduled automatically and conveniently.


A few years ago, if you wanted to build a microprocessor controlled device you had to be an extremely technical person. Then the ideas of freedom, open-source and community took over electronics education. Before you knew it, a child could pick up an Arduino, explore the code someone else wrote, and light up an LED. That shift democratized the exploration of ideas for a whole new group of people and made it possible for them to invent by themselves.

When we started playing with ideas years ago that eventually resulted in Mellow, connecting your own circuit to WiFi was an odyssey. We were a team of two: An industrial designer who had never touched a circuit, and a mechanical engineer who couldn’t do much better. The idea of the two of us iterating interfaces, actions, and features in actual working prototypes was ludicrous. Then the imp came along. The same shift that made digital control available to everyone started happening to connected devices. Now we are able to conceive of an idea, sketch it on paper, and have a working prototype the same day.

We’ve stuck with Electric Imp, and are planning to partner with them for years to come because we want to maintain this freedom to experiment. We’re getting ready to mass produce Mellow, an immensely complicated device, and haven’t had to touch a single line of assembly code. We hardly ever look at API documents and learn from the awesome projects other people put up on the web. If we have a question, we just trawl the Electric Imp forums for for an answer. I’ve watched great electrical engineers struggle for weeks with a new WiFi chip, while we just quietly push new code to an imp card every hour.

For entrepreneurs like us, the great thing about platforms that abstract the low-levels of design is that they enable us to focus our energy on what we want to achieve, instead of worrying about the plumbing. Using Electric Imp for playing around, then prototyping, and now manufacturing what we think is a world-changing product has been easy and seamless, and given us the most important things for a startup to have: speed, leverage, and peace of mind.

My guiding principle is that the food we eat matters. We built a smartphone-controlled cooking robot to help busy food lovers like ourselves prepare awesome food every single day.

Check out Mellow, and if you like what you see we hope you will consider backing us with a pre-order. By the way, I highly recommend watching Bret Victor’s Inventing on Principle presentation. It is an hour well spent.

Zé Pinto Ferreira
Designer of Mellow