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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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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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