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Eating software*

November 7, 2017

Last month I cooked the best steak of my life. In Napa as part of my recent US trip that took in the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle, I was a guest at the Hestan Cue Barn. I cooked my first AI meal under the supervision of resident food physicist Julian Weisner in Hestans' experimental display kitchen in a freestanding pan on a circular induction hob. A chip in the pan's handle linked to an iPad controlled the cooking process: result, perfection. Hestan's chief director of technology John Jenkins calls this 'eating software', the title of his talk at this year's Smart Kitchen Summit.

 Photo: Hestan Cue

 

2018 will see a new wave of wireless kitchen products in our homes. We will no longer need to stand by the stove until our meal is cooked. Toasters, coffee machines and food mixers will no longer be tied with cables and plugs to sockets but instead will be distributed around the kitchen in a freeform way. And we all know that even the best cooks sometimes burn food. No more of that. The cook will be free to wander away secure in the knowledge that software is taking care of dinner. Each stage of cooking will be tracked; your device will advise when to flip your fish, aubergines, courgettes or chicken breast at the optimal moment, the pan will switch off and cool instantly. For those with a wayward memory or for a young person starting out as a cook, this is fantastic. The rest of us who want to ensure we do things well will surely not reject such help (as long as we're free to go analogue when we want).

Photo: Hestan Cue

 

The practical basis of the new wireless kitchen is an electric sub-surface that allows for cooking anywhere across its area. This will be installed on your work surface or on a smart table where you can sit down. It will be controlled with multi-touch technology provided by, eg., the MTtech start-up from Israel.

 

What we now have is an opportunity to create an Unfitted Kitchen that is even more excitingly planned that its last incarnation. We can now cook, eat and socialise wherever there is space and light, hidden electric surfaces enabling these activities to move freely around. A storage pantry, appliance garage, multiple table surfaces and a wet area will provide the structure for the plan, with maybe sofas, bars, play areas featuring too. We can fit these around pleasurable pieces of furniture or giant pot plants, whatever we like, with a sense of home so much warmer and more flexible than under the formulaic old 'working triangle' rule - and no more burnt soggy, overcooked or underdone meals. To say I am excited by these prospects in an understatement. 

 

 

 

*The title is inspired by Marc Andreeson's article in the Wall St Journal 'Why software is eating the world'. His vision is now contested by data taking over.

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