A robot in the kitchen. A machine that prepares meals in 30 seconds. An intelligent stove with neither buttons nor a touch pad. These are no longer just visions of the future; after all, a number of visionaries and companies are working meticulously to bring about a technological revolution in our kitchens.
The two robotic arms reach down from above. One takes a knife, the other onions, tomatoes, parsley, and other ingredients. There’s cutting and chopping, and after a short wait the evening meal is ready. Today it’s our favorite pasta dish with salad. The robotic arms finish their work before moving back to the extractor hood where they are attached. We are left to enjoy what they’ve made.
What seems like a scene from a science fiction movie is in fact a futuristic-looking robotic chef from the British start-up Moley Robotics. The product could soon be ready to go into production, along with many other robotic aids and gadgets that will turn our old kitchens into high-tech work spaces. After all, an increasing number of visionaries and companies are working meticulously to bring about a technological revolution in the kitchen. The smart kitchen could change everything, and it’s only a matter of time before we’ll get to experience many of these new innovations.
The digital home
According to a representative survey by GfK, Germany’s largest market research institute, around 43 per cent of Internet users in Germany believe that in the next few years, the smart home will have a considerable impact on their lives. Those who took part in the survey consider the greatest benefits of smart-home solutions to be in the categories of security and control, smart energy and lighting, as well as in entertainment and domestic appliances.
New technology is always particularly popular when it makes our lives easier – ideally in areas of everyday life and in places where we like to spend lots of our time. For one in three people in Germany, everyday life is centered around the kitchen. Therefore, it’s not surprising that smart kitchen aids whose capabilities go beyond being controlled remotely are on the rise. They are a part of the digital home that we can see time and time again. We can already buy elements of the smart and connected home, and apps for starting the washing machine or controlling the heating while we’re not at home are no longer a novelty. There have been a number of helpful gadgets on the market for several years now, and at some point more will follow.
Completely new standards
When we think of traditional companies, there is often the sense that innovation is limited. However, many of these companies have established their own technical visions, too. Take Grundig, for example: now part of the Turkish Arcelik group, Grundig has created
VUX, a product that is setting completely new standards on the kitchen market. Short for “Virtual User Experience,” VUX is an intelligent technology that turns a normal marble worktop and induction hob into an intuitive work surface. It doesn’t need any permanently installed switches or a touch pad. Instead, the control panel is projected onto the hob or working surface from above, and is tailored to the needs of the cook. A sensor in the projector recognizes which commands are being entered and ensures that the system responds accordingly.
In addition, VUX can show users the best position for their saucepans in order to improve energy efficiency. What’s more, if something ends up on the hob by mistake, then the system will switch off that area of the stove, and it’s also possible to connect to a smartphone or baby cam. These are only a selection of VUX’s features. “For us, VUX is a very practical and functional step towards home connectivity, making the vision of a networked kitchen a little bit more of a reality,” says Serdal Korkut Avci, Head of Industrial Design at Arcelik. And innovation like this is rewarded, too: in 2016, VUX won the German Design Award.
Kitchen inspiration from a cult series
Star Trek fans will probably remember the “replicator,” a device that puts your evening meal on the table within seconds. Fictitious frills from a fictitious film and television series? Not quite. A group of visionaries in Israel is currently working on making the replicator reality. The device with the telling name of “Genie” heats up all kinds of meals within 30 seconds. “The dish can be anything. It can be a meal like chicken with rice, like couscous with vegetables, even a chocolate soufflé or any other dessert that you want,” Ayelet Carasso told British newspaper The Daily Mail. Carasso is one of the Genie’s developers.
“Genie” heats up all kinds of meals within 30 seconds. “The dish can be anything. It can be a meal like chicken with rice, like couscous with vegetables, even a chocolate soufflé or any other dessert that you want,” Ayelet Carasso told British newspaper The Daily Mail. Carasso is one of the Genie’s developers.
Star Trek meets smart home: The Replicator
The Genie looks like a coffee machine and uses pods. You put the pod with the freeze-dried ingredients into the top of the machine and after 30 seconds the finished meal comes out. According to the creators, the pods contain only natural ingredients and no preservatives. In addition, there are plans to personalize the experience further so that these meals, prepared at the touch of a button, are suitable for any diet or intolerance. The device is controlled by a smartphone app. The Genie can already be pre-ordered. “There is certainly a market for products like these, as there are always people who like to follow new products or trends,” explains Alexander Schwartz, chef de cuisine and food scout from Nuremberg. However, Schwartz still has some general concerns. “Food will always be more than just something to consume. Cooking connects people. Cooking arouses emotions. Cooking is a pleasure,” he says.
A database of 2,000 recipes
It’s difficult to predict which innovations will really catch on. However, one thing is certain: our kitchens will inevitably become more intuitive to use, more independent, and more automated. Also certain is the fact that every visionary and inventor out there firmly believes in their ideas and won’t tire in their quest to put them into practice.
Still, at some point even the technical revolution in the kitchen needs real people. For the robotic arms we saw at the beginning of the article, Moley Robotics based the movement patterns on Tim Anderson, winner of the British cooking show “MasterChef.” His hand movements were observed, analyzed, and digitalized using motion capture and more than 100 sensors. According to Moley Robotics, the robotic arms will be ready for the market as early as the end of 2017 – and will be delivered with a database of around 2,000 recipes.
Text: Sabrina Mauermann
Illustration: Anna- Maria Köperl, grasundsterne
Translation: Toby Skingsley