Kitchens That Cook (So You Don’t Have To.)

The Consumer Electronics Show is still months away, but manufacturers are already rolling out the next generation of kitchen appliances. What they have to offer takes "smart" technology to a whole new level. The latest innovations go beyond appliances that can be controlled remotely; they utilize data processing to simplify food preparation as well.

In the kitchen of the not-too-distant future, the appliances will do the cooking.

Within the past couple of years manufacturers have introduced a variety of smart, app-controlled appliances. Using a smartphone or tablet, you can turn the oven on or off, set the temperature control, or start and monitor the timer. The Dacor line, for example, comes with an embedded Android tablet and also responds to voice commands.

At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last month, LG displayed its new premium kitchen lineup, which goes a step further. The LG Studio oven uses LG's ThinQ technology to download and update recipes and then automatically set the mode, temperature and time for a given recipe after tagging a smart device to the oven. Some assembly required.

The June Intelligent Oven, acountertop appliance, employs basic artificial intelligence to "learn" about the foods you cook. Combining a computer processor, Wi-Fi connectivity, a camera, thermometer and weight sensors, the June detects the type, weight and temperature of the food placed in the oven. Then, it sets an ideal cooking time and range, which it monitors via streamed video. The first models are scheduled for release this coming spring.

Going one better, at last month's Disrupt SF event, a showcase for revolutionary startup technologies, a firm called Sereneti Kitchen demonstrated its prototype Cooki Robotic Chef. Cooki is not much to look at, but it could be the solution for people who don't like or have time to cook.

You provide the ingredients, and Cooki does the rest — chopping, slicing, mixing, stirring and heating. Cooki is controlled using an iPhone or iPad, and recipes are prepared by the developers. The geniuses behind Cooki claim it can prepare and cook up to 60 percent of commonly eaten foods, from scrambled eggs and soups to stews, pasta and stir-frys. All the convenience of prepared foods or takeout, only fresher and cheaper.

With the interconnectivity of the Internet of Things, the possibility of a nearly automated kitchen is no longer just the stuff of science fiction. To get some hands-on experience, the folks at CNET, the tech review website, bought a home in Louisville they have tricked out with all the latest smart technology in order to road test new products.

A recent article muses on how a true IoT kitchen might function. For example, the refrigerator camera could scan the contents and relay that information to the oven, which then would search for recipes using those ingredients and adjust itself to the appropriate cooking temperature and time. With heating technologies also getting more sophisticated, a weary Mr. or Ms. could have dinner ready in minutes after arriving home.

Of course, all this techno wizardry comes with a price. The June Oven is said to list at $1,500 — a far cry from the tag on your average toaster oven. Luxury appliances like the LG and Dacor models can run to five figures. No word yet on what a Cooki will cost you.

Still, for time-pressed execs and professionals, the promise of home-cooked meals without the cooking may be worth it. Kitchen designers, you have been put on notice.

Michael J Berens