Scientists cook up super kitchen

The humble kitchen, family refuge and haunt of the party bore, is to undergo a revamp of startling proportions as scientists introduce the computer cook.
Out will go the clutter and in will come the relentless efficiency we normally associated with TV cookery programmes as space age technology conjures up the exact style of cooking of your favourite chef.
Instead of those cookery books gathering dust you will be able download recipes from the internet that will tell you what you must do to become Marco White or Delia Smith. In fact if the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have their way, soon the kitchen will turn you into a super chef and then do the washing up.
“This is good technology,” said Joseph Kaye, the London born developer of the system known as Counter Intelligence. “We are coming up with things that will help people to cook and make it more enjoyable for them.”
Things like radio controlled cookers, intelligent fridges, ingredient containers, which can tell their own weight and know what ingredients they hold, pans that know their own temperatures and a talking work-top that can tell you what to do.
According to Kaye, the kitchen of the future is designed to help you and not to intimidate you.
“The idea is not create some uber computer, but to create a kitchen which is the sum of the technology being used in the kitchen by putting intelligence into a lot of the things ithat are in it.”
First to be rolled out according to Kaye is the smart kitchen worktop, due to make its first appearance over the next ten years in the hardware shops of the high streets and the catalogue collections of the internet.
“The work-top will be able to read the jars and tell you where you are in a recipe, preventing you from adding too many ingredients, so you can follow a recipe exactly. But it’s not going to take away improvisation because as well as being able to teach you it can also learn from you so it will be able to say things to you like ‘this is how many spoons of curry the recipe says, but you like it hotter than that so add more’.”
An ability that will allow the system to accurately absorb the authentic taste of ‘mother’s home cooking’ simply by asking her to prepare a recipe in your kitchen or send you a computer disc to load into your work-top.
Kaye’s aim is not to create a kitchen that takes over but one that helps. It will do things like tell you when the fridge door is open, or it could close itself. And it could either be pre-programmed to know when breakfast is or taught to identify times of high demand so it can pre-chill itself.
A simple enough function but one that could cut domestic electricity bills by around 11% as the fridge is responsible for one of a household’s biggest power drains.

According to the writer Saki, by insisting on pointing your wine bottle to the north and calling the waiter Max you can massively impress your guests but now that will not be necessary as selecting the perfect wine will be no problem.

Similar thinking is driving the innovations being tested by the MIT team, which is following both shopping trends already identified by the supermarkets and identifying some of the more hazardous problem areas in today’s kitchens.
To cut down on the accidents caused by cooker hotplates, they have developed a very simple device giving off an ominous glow if a hotplate is on, and computer tags built into pans that know what temperature they are meant to be at. If they start to exceed either the time or the simmer they have been told to keep to, a radio signal is broadcast to the cooker turning it down or off.
An innovation which creates a chain reaction, eradicating pans covered with burnt food and cutting down on the energy needed to get them clean.
The kitchen of the future is all about thought.
“If your kitchen can help you cook then that’s fun, what’s not fun is suddenly finding out that you’re cooking and that you’ve run out of butter,” said Kaye, adding, ”washing up is no fun, the drudgery of the kitchen is no fun.”
Something easily solved by introducing radio communication into the kitchen. Putting the equivalent of speak your weight tags into kitchen jars can link them directly to the internet, allowing them to create an instant shopping list which can be sent either to a home PC, digital TV system or direct to the supermarket.
Shopping for a dinner cooked by Delia, Anton or Marco will never be easier, a phone call to the work-top will result in a recipe suggestion based on what you have in, or you can tell it the recipe you want to cook and it will tell you what you need to buy.
According to the writer Saki, by insisting on pointing your wine bottle to the north and calling the waiter Max you can massively impress your guests but now that will not be necessary as selecting the perfect wine will be no problem.
“That can be done in two ways. We are working on an intelligent sommelier, that can use an information tag on the back of a wine bottle to recommend a recipe to go it a wine and to know how long it should be open for, or it can smell a wine and make suggestions for you.”


Published by Scotland on Sunday, 3rd of October, 1999