Volume 4 | Issue 1 | Year 2008

Sleek computerized, customized. There are several features that distinguish the kitchen of the future but the operative words – computerized, customized – say it all. The interaction among all appliances will make for a second tier of communication, so that while you’re talking on the phone your refrigerator is talking to itself – making note of that half-full jug of milk – and generating a grocery list before you can even hang up the phone.
Says Marc Hottenroth, Lead Industrial Designer in GE’s Consumer & Industrial Division, all of the appliances will be connected so that they can easily communicate with one another and share energy. In addition, appliances will be positioned in a way that is exceptionally ergonomic, so that limited bending is required for use. “The appliances are entirely interactive: they interact and communicate with the homeowner, they bring outside information – such as weather – in; they are “smart” in ways that allow them to generate grocery lists and communicate recipe ideas with consumers, and they largely serve as the household bulletin board and the nucleus of communication and information,” he says.

The big easy

The key feature of the appliance suite within the kitchen of the future is that they make consumers’ lives easier and their kitchen experience more enjoyable. “Easier” can mean a lot of things – it means homeowners won’t need to write their own grocery lists, that they won’t need to search through cookbooks for recipes, and that when they do go ahead and cook a meal, it will be faster than in a traditional kitchen.

“Speed is one convenience feature that we have been integrating into our ‘futuristic’ appliances of today,” says Hottenroth. For example, GE Profile Advantium® ovens use halogen light and microwave energy to cook foods up to eight times faster than a tradition oven. GE Profile Ovens with Trivection™ technology use microwave, convection, and radiant heat to cook foods up to five times as fast as a traditional oven.

“We currently have a dishwasher that allows you to load two to three months’ worth of detergent into the dishwasher, which will then dispense based on soil level of the dishes, cycle selection, and water hardness in the home. Not only does this save the consumer the hassle of pouring in detergent, but it also means that the optimal amount of detergent is used to get dishes clean. We have features like the CustomCool drawer in some of our refrigerators that allow consumers to chill beverages in minutes and safely thaw meats in hours. All of these appliances save consumers time. And these are appliances of the “future” that exist today, many of which you see in the kitchen we conceptualized for ‘tomorrow.’”

Naturally, the kitchen of the future greatly reduces energy and water consumption within the kitchen. The glass touch control interfaces on the appliances are illuminated with OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes), which are incredibly efficient. There is energy sharing between the appliances that enhance efficiency. For example, heat that’s used to warm the oven is also used to heat the water needed for the dishes. Gray water from the kitchen can then be used in other areas outside of the home.

Originally, GE’s industrial designers predicted this kitchen to be available in the year 2035. However, it is quite possible that individual ideas and concepts from this kitchen may exist much sooner; and some concepts, like speed cooking, exist today. For example, the refrigerator is able to keep an inventory of food inside by reading the RFIDs (or radio frequency ID tags) integrated into the food and the food’s packaging. This is technology that exists today. In addition, some “big-box” retailers use RFIDs embedded into palettes of their products to help them manage and keep track of their inventories. It’s not a far stretch to assume that this technology will soon make its way into the household.

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