The food replicators on Star Trek that produce piping hot, perfectly cooked food in seconds or the thinking, talking kitchen appliances of The Jetsons’ family home may seem like science fiction but the truth is, the idea behind these “smart” appliances are not so far fetched.
In fact, home appliance manufacturers including GE, Maytag, Samsung and Whirlpool are now teaming up with the technology giants like Cisco, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems to bring futuristic kitchen appliances into today’s homes. These smart appliances can keep notes, generate recipe ideas, calculate cooking times and heat food at warp speed. Oh – and some of these kitchen appliances can even play movies while you wait.
A lot of the prototypes under development will never see the outside of the lab since studies show that homeowners aren’t quite ready to fork over the big bucks required to bring these smart appliances into their homes. So for now an oven that starts cooking with a telephone call or kitchen appliances that are networked to a laptop computer will not be available to the average consumer.
But don’t worry tech-savvy gourmets, there are some kitchen appliances on the market that integrate high-tech gadgetry that can make your time in the kitchen convenient and fun.
Samsung produces a barcode-reading microwave in partnership with a grocery chain in Europe that estimates and sets the proper cooking time automatically when the frozen item is scanned.
They’ve also developed a wireless-enabled refrigerator that features a removable LCD (liquid crystal display screen) that can be used to leave voice messages, post notes, manage a family calendar and even play TV shows or DVDs.
Tired of having to wash your dishes after they’ve been through the dishwasher? Those days are over now that the latest dishwashers have built-in sensors that can estimate how dirty the dishes are, select the right water softness and cycles for the types of dishes (plastic or china), and dispense the correct amount of detergent to reduce waste.
Wine lovers might like GE’s new intelligent wine vault, a free-standing home appliance with cool features programmed at the factory. With a price tag of over $30,000, the wine vault tracks details such as the name, vineyard and year and generate barcodes for each bottle. All the data is backed up on a GE server through an online connection.
Induction ovens, which have been found in European kitchens for more than 15 years have finally made their way into Canadian homes. Instead of the burners generating the temperature, induction technology creates an electro-magnetic response in iron or stainless steel cooking vessels so the “burner” stays cool to the touch from start to finish. The technology is reported to be 25 to 30 per cent more energy efficient than a standard stovetop – and it’s fast. A large stockpot of water can be brought to a boil in as little as two minutes.