Connected Kitchen

IceBox flipscreen
Some very cool, if ultimately doomed to failure stuff here from Salton inc. First, the Icebox. This one I do rather like. It’s a TV/DVD player/net browser/video monitor/radio for the kitchen with an integrated touchscreen. There is a choice of form factors – the iMac clone looks cute but I’m particularly fond of the foldaway under the counter “fliptop” model. They also include a washable keyboard and mouse – it’s always nice to see attention to detail.

The ones I’m not so sure about though are the Microwave, Coffee maker and bread maker. These communicate with each other via a networking system that relies on the icebox getting new recipies and beaming them over to your appliances so they become “smarter” over time. And there’s a barcode wand to scan in product information so that you don’t have to enter anything.

Now some of you may be old or geeky enough to remember that Panasonic had a similar idea with VCRs about 10 years ago. You had a bar code wand and instead of pressing buttons to set the timer (how old fashioned is that?) you swiped the wand over the relevant bar code segments for day/month/etc. Very hi tech. And an ergonomic disaster.

In the real world it proved more hassle than just typing in the numbers and it was no less incomprehensible to the technophobes it was aimed at. Plus the barcodes ended up being lost down the back of the sofa and when you sat on the remote it cost you 100 quid to get a new one because of the scanner.

So Panasonic learned from this and their new microwaves have buttons saying “Bread”, “Chicken” and “The sludgy remains of last night’s chinese takeaway”. Much easier to use and no less effective.

Time will tell whether these “beyond digital living” products go the same way.