How We Imagine Smart Kitchens vs. The Reality

A robot in a kitchen.

There isn’t a room in the house that’s been given the futuristic treatment in science fiction more than the kitchen, not the garage, not the family room, and certainly not the solarium. I don’t actually know what a solarium is either, but I want one.

We picture fully automated kitchens in which eggs ride a little conveyor belt to a frying pan and fruit is sucked into a vacuum juicer, and we adjust the brightness of the morning sun via remote control.

That’s what we picture, then we look around our current kitchen at the overcooked eggs with shells in them, the dilapidated refrigerator making loud creepy noises that scare the dog, and a team of ants walking away with an undercooked slice of bacon. This is fine.

Smart Kitchens Aren’t What Dreams of Made Of

Even if you have one of them fancy smart kitchens, it’s barely an improvement. Yes, your smart refrigerator has a camera that can remotely show what you need via an app while you’re at the grocery store, but its best feature remains keeping things cold. And yes, your smart toaster uses an LED display to show how close your toast is to being done, but that old one in your cupboard that gives you third-degree burns can handle the job just as well.

Smart kitchen appliances are obviously cool and fun, but they’re nowhere near living up to anything in the Jetsons, and will never quite catch on until they actually start making food for us. We don’t need a fridge that has Wi-Fi; we want one that hands us a beer when asked and automatically tosses out that wet, expired bag of lettuce.

We don’t care as much if our oven can perfectly cook the turkey; we want our oven to carve the turkey and give our annoying uncle the bad parts. We want our smart dishwasher to unload itself. And while it’s nice that our smart toaster can toast anything from bagels to English muffins with perfect precision, we want it to butter our toast up as well and fly it to us in bed on a drone. Is that too much to ask? Probably.

When Going Smart Kitchen, Go Small

When gazing across the vast field of smart kitchen appliances, it becomes clear that it may be best to go small when going smart. There’s not much of an argument against the automatic pot stirrer that frees you up to go play wiffleball and a smart meat thermometer that lets you monitor that roast in the barbeque while yelling at your son for missing a spot on the lawn. I’d buy those.

I’d also buy the smart microwave that knows I’ll probably overcook or undercook whatever’s in there, and the trash can with an automatic sensor so it opens when I’m angrily throwing that food away. I’ll even grab the smart toaster when they add a few more creative features.

Uutensil StirrTime

If someone asks you to stir the sauce, leave this there.

This isn’t to say that every small kitchen appliance is useful. This milk cooler is a bit silly, smart coffee mugs are pushing it, and if you’re using a smart cocktail mixer, you’re sort of ruining the fun of making imprecise cocktails.

Our dreams of the futuristic kitchen will have to wait for now, but that’s alright. It’s not that I want the art of cooking to be fully automated away, but if a robot wants to flip an egg or write an article on smart kitchens so I don’t have to, I won’t say no.

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