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CES: The kitchen reinvented

Next week’s CES expo will reveal just how deeply smart tech is invading the kitchen, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The voice-activated coffee machine is so last year, if exhibitors at next week’s CES tech expo in Las Vegas live up to their promises.

Now, it’s all about the culinary experience, along with creating an ecosystem of appliances.

One of last year’s stand-out exhibits, Gourmia, encapsulated the power of voice control, showing how Google Assistant could take the pain out of figuring out the controls of pressure cookers and coffee machines. The wake phrase “Hey, Google” took over from the “On” switch, and the techie’s life would never be the same again.

This year Gourmia says it is redefining the smart kitchen with both its mainline products and an expanded IoT platform, featuring multiple kitchen appliances connecting to a single app on iOS or Android. It’s also added Amazon’s Alexa to its voice integration, and promises more than 200 “countertop kitchen electrics and gadgets”. (visit www.gourmia.com or booth #17315 at the Las Vegas Convention Center) to learn more.

Gourmia’s rival at CES, Brava, is more about the food than the controls. It will demonstrate a new smart countertop oven that it claims “is the fastest oven in the world and cooks food twice as fast as your traditional oven”, with the ability to go from 0°C to 260°C instantly. The Brava Oven, it says, “is shaping the next era of in-home cooking through the power of its ground-breaking, patented technology that uses infrared light as an energy source to make delicious, homemade food” (visit international.brava.com or booth #43970 at the Sands).

Appliance giant LG Electronics is not standing aside for these kitchen upstarts, though. It says it “will reveal the next phase in the development of the smart kitchen” at CES 2019 (visit www.lge.com or booth #11100 at the LVCC).

“Better integration of kitchen appliances, such as ovens, into the connected home will be a key factor in making the smart kitchen more attractive to consumers,” it said in a pre-show announcement.

Partnerships, said LG, will play a key role in creating a better culinary experience, and it will be demonstrating this principle in the company of Drop, the developer behind the Drop KitchenOS platform.

It made it sound far easier than it probably is in the real world: “When the user selects a recipe through Drop, the platform seamlessly informs LG appliances of the choice and automates elements of the cooking process, such as automatically preheating the oven or adjusting time, temperature and cooking mode based on the recipe. With deeper collaboration with an expanded offering of smart kitchen partners, LG’s connected smart kitchen collection of ovens, refrigerators and dishwashers will work together to help simplify the task of food preparation as well as meal clean-up.”

Chances are, the crowds will be more focused on a beer-making machine, LG HomeBrew, that LG will be launching at CES. Last year, a free beer stand was one of the most popular attractions at the show.

For the more serious kitchen, LG will also show off a smart kitchen portfolio that features the LG InstaView ThinQ refrigerator and LG QuadWash dishwasher. The two form part of the same ecosystem as the smart oven:

Once the right dish has been identified on the fridge’s embedded screen, the recipe can be sent from the refrigerator to the oven, which begins preheating to the right temperature. After cooking the meal, an EasyClean feature in LG’s combination wall oven removes any food residue that might have splattered on the interior.

“Finally, the same smart recipe will inform the LG QuadWash dishwasher of the optimal setting to ensure spotless cleaning of the dishware and utensils that were used to enjoy the delicious meal.”

Yes, we all know that gadgets don’t cooperate that seamlessly in reality; the true challenge comes long after the near-laboratory conditions under which the appliances are demonstrated at CES – once customers have plugged in such appliances at home.

LG promised that won’t be the case.

“Technology is making the kitchen more and more complicated and our vision is to create an environment that is welcoming and stress-free so that families can enjoy the optimal culinary experience without having to eat out or order in,” said Dan Song, president of LG Home Appliance & Air Solution Company. “Through partnerships that tap into today’s more intelligent kitchen appliances, we’re able to deliver the smart kitchen experience that customers have been asking for.”

For a peek even further into the future of the kitchen, RoboBusiness will be hosting a full day conference track titled “Service Robotics Arrive in Daily Life” on Thursday, 10 January.

A session titled “Household Robots: Doing the Chores We Don’t Want to Do” will cover robots that do everyday chores, from vacuuming to lawn mowing and cleaning, as they become an integral part of the home ecosystem.

The culinary minded will, however, be headed for “On the Menu: Robots Cook Up Faster Food”.

“Diners demand efficiency and speed when they eat out,” said RoboBusiness. “As robots enter restaurant kitchens, they enable orders to be filled with speed, cleanliness, and customization. See an array of examples of how robots are becoming the next generation of chefs.”

It this is just too much tomorrow, the obvious good news is that traditional methods of cooking still work just fine, now and into the future.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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