Kitchens of the future – Technology
Fridges that order food for you (delivered by drones), temperature controlled gel storage devices that don’t need electricity, appliances controlled from your phone and robot kitchen helpers. Whatever the future of kitchen technology holds – it does look pretty darn cool!
Due to the nature of developing technology the timescale from idea to launch can sometimes be decades. Even technology that is in use now may not be commercially available for years due to development, marketing and distribution costs. So when we look to the future of kitchens there are two different futures we can look at: We have the future which shows us the products that have been created and we know can be incorporated and then there are the ideas/prototypes that are scientifically possible but more guesswork is necessary as to whether they will find a place in the market and even then, it may not be for some time.
In the near future
What we do with our food
The first thing that really shines and is already in use is the living table. It combines current technology with future tech to make something truly incredible. Currently available in consumer use is the phone charger that charges using an induction method and the hob that uses a similar process to heat food. The Microsoft table can connect with your phone when placed on its surface allowing you to view/transfer videos and images without a connection. The living table pushes the boundaries of what is possible with a projector overhead that can display recipes, timing and interacts with your tech. The technology consists of a camera and projector positioned above the table and induction coils underneath the table surface. Networked together, they allow the system to recognise objects and their movement and to project a display (Link). It will allow you to weigh ingredients on the table itself with a display showing the exact measurement, heat food safely and even keep your coffee the exact temperature you like while still keeping the table surface cool.
Where we get our food
3 years ago Amazon launched the idea of a delivery drone that could deliver packages direct to your house within hours. It has been tested thoroughly in the US with promising results and has received approval from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) (Link). With this in mind, once the law on drones comes into effect, Amazon won’t be the only business wanting to offer this service. Imagine being able to get an emergency shop delivered to your door or food from your local take away. Drones being sold for consumer use are an economically viable option at this moment in time and therefore it makes sense that in the future this sort of delivery will be the norm. You will also be able to order food from your kitchen itself, the fridge will know when it is running low of a certain item and will put in an order to restock it for you. It will also advise you as to what recipes can be created based on the stock you have in the fridge and cupboards. Again, a simplified version of this technology is already in use, it was developed by LG 5 years ago and can scan food barcodes, order groceries online and switch the oven on (Link).
How we control our appliances
Currently, if you would like a cup of coffee you put some water in the kettle, fill it up, put some coffee in a cup and well, I am sure you are aware of the process. Basically, all of this is done manually. However, appliances controlled by your mobile phone are already being sold, including being able to control lighting, appliances and more, using wifi in some cases (So you could control it from another country if you felt the urge). Integration of mobile charging stations in pop up and static wall sockets have increased in popularity and coffee machines that can be switched on from your phone are in use today. Hive (part of British Gas), have launched a whole campaign about being able to control your home with your mobile “Hive controls your house from your phone” (Link). At the moment, though a “Smart Home” is available to the everyday consumer they are priced outside what the average customer is willing to spend but they won’t be for long. As more people catch on to the benefits and ease of use of this control method, the cheaper and more accessible they will become.
In the further future
Where we store our food
Have you ever looked at your fridge and thought “I mean this is great but I would prefer if it was green and made of a gel like substance”. If you have then you are going to kick yourself right now. The Biopolymer Refrigerator concept from Electrolux can be mounted horizontally, vertically or even on the ceiling (Link). The fridge does not have a motor or other traditional technology like most refrigerators, as the gel does all the work. To use the fridge you basically shove food into its biopolymer gel, which has no odour and is not sticky and it is suspended and cooled until you need it again.
How we cook (and who or what does it)
It seems like something out of a 1950’s sci-fi movie, having a robot helper that does everything you command and though we are some years off this sort of tech, advancements in robotics have been extraordinary. In the future you can expect robots to take a lot of the work out of preparing and cooking meals including slicing foods, stirring and heating. Currently there are simple machines that can cut vegetables and stir but eventually there will be an all in one helper that does everything. Sereneti’s COOKI aims to offer a helping hand — literally. The COOKI stirs and prepares ingredients for recipes. Other motions such as automated slicing, blending and more will be integrated at later date (Link).
Will kitchens even exist?
At this stage predicting what will happen in 20+ years is a matter of guesswork and science. Product life cycles have got Shorter and shorter as competition intensifies and alternatives/copies pop up sometimes months before new products are released. This means that what would have taken 5 years from start to finish 10 years ago now only takes 2 years.
In the future, houses will know you. Inside and out. They will be able to tell your mood, put the coffee on when it knows you are awake, monitor your health and propose menu options. It will know your calendar and time schedule. If you forget your lunch it will notify you and could even order lunch to be delivered to you from your favourite take away automatically. It will know everything you have available by scanning your receipts when you get home, each storage device could be chipped to allow exact temperature control on individual items.
All of this is possible. All of it has been tested to some degree so we know it can be done and the basis of a lot of the technology is used in consumer products already available. Kinect by Xbox allows you to control the console by voice and motion, it analyses your heat signature, how much pressure you are putting on a body part and tracks your likes/dislikes, times you are playing etc.
By the year 2050, Electrolux Director Thomas Johansson says “the kitchen may no longer even be a kitchen as we know it. Instead, its elements may be incorporated into the living room, with embedded appliances disappearing into walls and working surfaces” (Link). This could mean vacuum sealed, humidity controlled areas for freshness and control, an improvement on the storage devices above and more space available as more people move into urban areas.
In the end, living in this technology obsessed world means that crazy sci-fi kitchen gadgets and inventions will eventually become a reality but whether or not it will make its way into your kitchen – that’s a different question.