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July 29, 2021

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Pure Imagination cooks up big idea

Vancouver-based company's apps help consumers make perfect dish, drink

The Columbian
Published:
3 Photos
Vancouver-based Pure Imagination has developed apps that can be used with their two products, Perfect Bake and Perfect Drink.
Vancouver-based Pure Imagination has developed apps that can be used with their two products, Perfect Bake and Perfect Drink. The company is among those at the forefront of helping customers to use their mobile devices to make their home lives easier. Photo Gallery

Perfect Drink: Includes a digital smart scale and tumbler, a connecting cable to a phone or tablet, and a stand for the phone or tablet. About $50.


Perfect Bake:
Includes digital smart scale, stand, cable, oven thermometer and three color-coded mixing bowls. About $70.

Available at Brookstone locations or online at www.Perfectdrinkapp.com or www.Perfectbakeapp.com.

Free Android or IOS apps are offered through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

On a business trip to Hong Kong two years ago, Vancouver entrepreneurs Michael Wallace and Darin Barri were on the hunt for a great lychee martini.

Perfect Drink: Includes a digital smart scale and tumbler, a connecting cable to a phone or tablet, and a stand for the phone or tablet. About $50.

Perfect Bake: Includes digital smart scale, stand, cable, oven thermometer and three color-coded mixing bowls. About $70.

Available at Brookstone locations or online at <a href="http://www.Perfectdrinkapp.com">www.Perfectdrinkapp.com</a> or <a href="http://www.Perfectbakeapp.com">www.Perfectbakeapp.com</a>.

Free Android or IOS apps are offered through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

An idea struck the men, both partners in a small toy company called Pure Imagination, as they chatted about being unable to make the perfect cocktail on their own: what if they could create a product that helps the home bartender become a skilled mixologist?

They immediately called Philip Odom, another partner in Pure Imagination, with their idea. It took them just two weeks to write the software for Perfect Drink. When used in a smartphone or tablet connected to a digital smart scale, the app guides a home bartender on using just the right ingredients to make a perfect cocktail.

Pure Imagination left toy design behind. Its new product, an app and digital scale combo called Perfect Drink, hit the shelves of Brookstone in late 2013.

“It was one of their top-selling products,” Wallace said, adding because of his sales agreement with Brookstone, the company cannot release sales figures. Perfect Drink also won Cool Product of the Year at the 2014 Oregon Technology Awards. “Everything’s taken off after that.”

The company took its next big step last December when it introduced Perfect Bake, a set of tools that assist home cooks and pastry chefs to making the perfect batch of brownies, cookies and cakes. Wallace said both products have become “core items” for Brookstone, and the company is looking to expand its presence to other retail outlets.

With its newest products, Pure Imagination might be on the cusp of a new wave of technology that experts say is the next big thing. This idea of using your phone or tablet to control the day-to-day things you do is considered part of a new technology boom called the “Internet of things.” Think of using your phone as a remote control for your life, says Eric Preisz, CEO of Vancouver-based Garage Games, a technology company that uses game technology for everything from education to employee training and advertising.

Preisz said with the advent of mobile devices, companies are looking for ways to add convenience by connecting your phone to everything from your home heating to your fridge.

“It’s basically connecting everything and giving people dashboards,” he said.

Experimenting for exactness

In a long and open kitchen with large windows displaying an expansive view of the Columbia River, Wallace places a tumbler on a small digital scale. He pours water instead of liquor for the sake of demonstration. His smartphone sits on a small stand, connected via a wire to the digital scale. He pulls up the Perfect Drink app and the recipe for an Alaska martini. As he pours, a small box on the screen representing the amount of gin needed fills up. When he gets to the right weight, it beeps. He over pours and the rest of the ingredients adjust automatically to make up for the mistake.

“It tells you how to fix it if you screw up. Even if you’ve been drinking all night,” he quips.

Pure Imagination’s partners have spent hours testing the liquor and baking ingredients to get the apps to detect the exact density, allowing users to easily become a perfect mixologist or chef. A mantel in the couple’s kitchen is packed with tiny travel-sized liquor bottles while shelves in their living room are complete with the full-sized bottles of booze.

The smell of black pepper walnut cookies filled the room as Wallace continued his demonstration. “Side benefit,” Miriam Kim, Pure Imagination partner and Wallace’s wife, says of getting to experiment with sweets.

Both Perfect Drink and Perfect Bake come with hundreds of recipes and the ability to input your own. You can also list your liquor or baking ingredients and search for what recipes you can make with what you have on hand.

The partners of Pure Imagination decided two years ago, after a big success with the toy Paper Jamz guitar, to start selling products directly.

“We’re having a blast,” said Wallace, who has been in the toy designing and engineering business his whole career. The company now employs about a dozen workers in downtown Vancouver.

“We currently have 10 full-time employees and two chefs working as contractors,” Wallace said. “We have a very lean but talented team in-house who handle everything from product design and app development, to baking, mixing cocktails and (quality assurance) testing, to video production and photography. Much of this team has been with us for years developing many different products.”

There’s an app for that

Wallace said he sees Perfect Bake and Perfect Drink as part of the so-called Internet of things but also part of the connected kitchen. For example, a lot of people now refer to recipes on their phones or tablets.

This new movement of connecting mobile devices to track daily activities, such as counting your footsteps with your phone or using an iPad to control household items, is growing, said Jon Maroney, managing partner of Amplify United, an accelerator in Portland that works with early stage technology companies. Pure Imagination has plans for an initial meeting with Maroney about possible financial backing, Wallace said.

“You’re seeing it’s really exploding right now because technology is at a point where you can connect things to the phones,” Maroney said.

And the Vancouver/Portland metro area, with its combination of design and product firms coupled with lifestyle-focused businesses such as Nike and Adidas is an ideal location for new product development.

“You start getting the intersections of all these things coming together where you have the right talent coming together making these interesting and unique products you haven’t seen before,” he said.

And this new wave was evident at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Pure Imagination had a booth. Maroney said new companies are offering tools for tracking how many calories are in your cereal bowl to changing the color of your light bulb with your phone.

But just where consumers draw that line between wanting technology to assist and wanting to do it on their own is the $64 million question, Maroney said. Time will tell when consumers welcome an app to do the work for them, or when they prefer the creative process of trial and error that for many is part of the cooking experience.

“It’s not clear, and that’s where you’ve seen a lot of experimentation,” Maroney said, adding it’s all about making tedious tasks easier and taking out the guesswork. “A lot of it is about capturing imagination.”

Maroney said while many of the businesses that attended the Consumer Electronics Show will likely not still be up and running next year, he said “when it’s good, it’s good.”

“There’s absolutely going to be some really big successes. The next Googles of the world will come out of this wave of technology,” he said.

Catching on

Wallace said the response to Pure Imagination’s new products has been “amazing.” Though the company has been self-funded until now, the partners are seeking outside funding to move forward. He would not say how much or what type of funding they are seeking.

He said the company plans to expand its office in downtown Vancouver, at 705 Main St. Suite 201, by building a full test kitchen. Pure Imagination also has plans to get its products on more shelves.

The “2015 International (Consumer Electronics Show) has generated a tremendous amount of buzz for us and we have reps and distributors lining up to sell our products in just about every channel,” he said. “The key is to be smart about which channels we choose that are best for our products in the long term.”

Wallace said they are looking to upgrade Perfect Bake by adding a wireless scale and other features.

Portland-area chefs and early users of the Perfect Bake product Stacy Foster and Katy Millard can’t wait.

Both say they use Perfect Bake for home baking and recipe testing. Millard, who owns a small catering company and is working on opening a restaurant in Portland, said it has significantly cut down her recipe conversion time since she always converts to grams and cooks by weight.

Foster, who has been baking professionally for 15 years and works at Bethany’s Table in Bethany Village near Beaverton, Ore., said the same and added she loves to use it to cook with her 5-year-old.

“It’s incredibly kid-friendly. I just think that the product is magnificent and it’s so smart and it makes for such consistent, fail-proof product,” she added.

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