Kitchen delights with French touch

The East African - - FRONT PAGE - - New York Times

The day Julien Lu­cas brought culi­nary ad­ven­ture to Uganda

On a re­cent Satur­day night, Ger­man Salazar made chicken tacos for his friends while they chat­ted with him in his kitchen. Oc­ca­sion­ally, he in­ter­rupted the con­ver­sa­tion to talk to an­other friend. Salazar was speak­ing to Google Home, the ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent speaker liv­ing on his kitchen counter. “Hey Google, set a timer for 20 min­utes,” he said, to ac­ti­vate a count­down for when the chicken would be cooked and ready for shred­ding.

At first, Salazar’s friends snick­ered when he talked to the speaker. But after a few bot­tles of wine, ev­ery­one be­gan grilling Google Home with ques­tions and re­quests: “How much did Jamie Lee Cur­tis make in True Lies?” and “Tell me a joke.”

For many peo­ple, the kitchen is the cen­tre of the home and a lo­cus for in­ter­ac­tions that go be­yond pre­par­ing and eat­ing food. Now tech com­pa­nies and ap­pli­ance mak­ers, aim­ing to deepen their re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers, are in­creas­ingly tar­get­ing the room that is synony­mous with to­geth­er­ness.

House­hold brands like Whirlpool, Sam­sung and Bosch are rac­ing against tech be­he­moths like Google and Ama­zon to dom­i­nate the kitchen with in­ter­net­con­nected ap­pli­ances and cook­ing gad­gets that in­clude re­frig­er­a­tors em­bed­ded with touch screens, smart dish­wash­ers and con­nected coun­ter­top screens with ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent as­sis­tants that re­act to spo­ken com­mands.

Yet the “smart kitchen” re­mains a tough sell. Many peo­ple see the kitchen and meal­times as a haven from their oth­er­wise al­ways-con­nected life­style. Only 5 per cent of US house­holds own smart ap­pli­ances to­day, up from 3 per cent in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the re­search firm Parks As­so­ciates.

Peo­ple may be hes­i­tant to in­cor­po­rate smart de­vices into their kitchens be­cause of the costs of main­tain­ing such ap­pli­ances, which are of­ten dif­fi­cult to re­pair and use ex­pen­sive com­po­nents like touch screens. Sam­sung un­veiled a new ver­sion of Fam­ily Hub, a smart re­frig­er­a­tor that un­der­stands voice com­mands and sports a 21.5-inch touch screen. The ap­pli­ance has three built-in cam­eras, which can beam live im­ages of the fridge’s con­tents to a phone. Fam­ily Hub re­frig­er­a­tors start at about $3,500.

With many smart kitchen ap­pli­ances in­cor­po­rat­ing In­ter­net con­nec­tions, cam­eras or mi­cro­phones, dig­i­tal pri­vacy is also a con­cern.

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