Kitchen delights with French touch
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.