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CES’s Kitchen of the Future Is Sort of a Nightmare

Camera-laden appliances, voice-activated faucets: Seriously, who asked for this?

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The kitchen of the future is here, and it’s one that no one asked for. CES 2019, this year’s iteration of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, just opened in Las Vegas, and as per usual, the gadgets unveiled so far reveal a unique perspective on the everyday lifestyle problems that consumers apparently want solved. The problems? Too much privacy in kitchens! And not enough things that can be solved by app! As Rose Elveth wrote for Eater in 2015, “Engineers... operate on the premise that people don’t know what they need until it’s built for them... the result is an array of potential futures that are strangely both unaware of the culture from which they spring, and at the same time constrained by it. The kitchen of the future is a one-size-fits all, ahistorical, acultural room, one that serves no one well.”

If I were to install every kitchen item at CES this year (so far) and try to make dinner with them — say, Zuni Cafe’s roast chicken for two — it would go something like this:

First, I’ll place my whole chicken in Whirlpool’s Smart Countertop Oven, whose algorithm is not only “smart enough” to deduce what foodstuff I’ve mindlessly thrown in there, but also set its needed cooking time and temperature accurately — the two aspects of cooking the average home cook can actually get right, and the two aspects of cooking where precision is the most crucial to avoid food poisoning. As the oven roasts its mystery item, it also has an internal camera where I can watch the chicken slowly cook from an app — or, of course, share it with my social media followers — in a truly high-tech innovation of what shall now be known as Oven Window 1.0.

For my side-dish bread salad, to the stove, where two HD cameras placed at head level — part of GE’s Kitchen Hub, a TV-sized touchscreen and vent that sit right above a range — are capturing every aspect of meal prep. On one forward-facing camera, I could live chat with friends or talk through the steps of the recipe to my YouTube followers if I had any; from the direct-overhead camera, I could take images of the food while it’s in prep mode. The hub can also do things like connect to Netflix or Spotify and dim the lights throughout my home via Google Assistant, that is, if I didn’t already have KitchenAid’s Smart Display, which also provides house-dimming, playlist summoning, and YouTube streaming through Google Assistant. (The KitchenAid display, though, is specifically designed to be waterproof, accommodating messy cooks.)

Through the Kitchen Hub, I share photos of the in-progress chicken and my messy stove top direct to Instagram.

In grabbing the greens for my bread salad, I’ve inadvertently left my Samsung Family Hub 4.0 fridge door open, so it pings an app I’ve downloaded on my cell phone, truly innovating upon... the loud beep most modern-day fridges have, and particularly unhelpful if I’m physically in the kitchen but my phone is elsewhere (i.e., buried in my purse). However, I am able to glance at its “Personalized Family Board,” which “improves” on the old-school fridge decor of Post-Its and magnets-holding-up-takeout-menus by forcing me to tap on a screen.

To make some coffee, I turn to the Heatworks Duo Carafe, an instant water heater that can immediately bump any-temperature water by 130 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve filled it with tap water obtained through Kohler’s Sensate Touchless Kitchen Faucet, which turned on via voice recognition (i.e., my yelling at it). As the Verge’s Dieter Bohn warned, the Carafe’s instant heating is good for tea, which needs a lower temperature to brew, but not for coffee. I settle for tea.

As the chicken roasts, I clean as I go by placing my dishes in CES 2018’s best innovation — Heatwork’s Tetra, a countertop dishwasher that can also cook seafood. Should that chicken not work out (my Instagram commenters, looking at my oven-shot photos of a raw chicken, seem worried), perhaps I could make some fish for dinner, in my dishwasher, as any true cook of the future would do.

CES 2019 news [The Verge]