Smart, connected home appliances and autonomous cooking ‘robots’ were everywhere at the CES consumer electrics show in Las Vegas (January 9-12).
The show is expected to attract around 130,000 visitors and is host to around 4,000 exhibitors from sectors such as consumer electronics, home appliances, gaming, computing, mobile phones, vehicle tech among many others.
Countertop autonomous robots were out in force at CES 2024, claiming to transform the way that meals are prepared, cooked and delivered. GE showed its NeoSear smart grill and a tabletop indoor smoker, iGulu was showing a smart at-home brewer that claims to simplify home brewing. Simply add the ingredients when it tells you to, wait a couple of weeks and it delivers 40 litres of beer. There were also ice cream makers from Sweet Robo and ColdSnap, TechMagic’s robot that makes chicken stir-fry, and a one-touch air fryer from start-up Chef AI that adjusts itself without the need for any user input. There was even a robot cocktail maker from Barsys and a coffee-making robot barista that mimics the way a real barista moves at your favourite coffee emporium (PIC).
Major appliance manufacturers at CES were also showcasing their latest AI-equipped products. On the Samsung stand a major focus was the 2024 Bespoke 4-Door Flex refrigerator with AI Family Hub. This has AI Vision inside, which is a smart camera that recognises up to 33 different fresh food types when they are put into the fridge. Users can also manually add in a use-by date and the fridge will send them an alert vias its 32in LCD screen when the item is going out of date. The fridge can also connect to the Samsung Health portal to suggest healthy recipes. The LCD screen can also be set to mirror the display of the user’s Samsung smartphone.
LG was showing a new all-in-one washer-dryer combo with inverter heat pump technology and direct drive motor. This is said to save time while using up to 60% less energy for every load. It is said to be able to run a complete wash-and-dry cycle in two hours.
Also new from LG was its LG InstaView bottom freezer with MoodUp. LG says that this product allows you to choose the vibe you would like it give off with multiple colour and music choices. Users can customise the colour of their fridge with just a few taps of the ThinQ app on their smartphone. It also reveals the contents of the fridge when the users knocks twice on the door. It is also designed to work with LG’s ThinQ home assistant.
One of the seminar sessions at CES was The Kitchen 2030: How Food and Cooking Will Change in the Future. Participants were Samsung vice-president Dochul Choi, Khalid Aboujassoum, CEO of one-pot cooking ‘robot’ maker Else Labs, Robin Liss, CEO of kitchen countertop cooking ‘robot’ company Suvie and Kai Schaeffner from Vorwerk, which makes the Thermomix smart cooking ‘robot’.
The panel agreed that ‘guided’ or ‘autonomous’ cooking was a significant trend, where users can use the product to order ingredients and cook them according to preloaded recipes. As Schaeffner put it, “taking the effort out of cooking”.
Samsung’s Choi said he believed this also helped to utilise food resources more efficiently. He said: “The real worry is food waste. Wi-fi connectivity doesn’t give much benefit to consumers [in that context], but AI and the Internet of Things does.”
On the subject of what benefits autonomous cooking brings, Suvie’s Liss said: “We have the knowledge, we have the products, but we don’t have the means to do it quickly. The job of the tech companies is to combine that knowledge and technology to enable people to have healthy outcomes.”
All participant pointed to the fact that these autonomous cooking robots, such as Suvie and Thermomix not only turn cooking for a chore into a pleasure, they also help to encourage people to eat more healthily.
The panel was asked about what the future holds, Samsung’s Choi said he could envision the end of the kitchen, specifically referencing densely populated urban environments such as Hong Kong where many apartments do not have the space for a kitchen. He also suggested that there may be better solutions to food storage than refrigerators. He referred to the old days when food was bought fresh as needed and cooked and eaten straight away. He said: “When using a refrigerator, there are more opportunities for food waste.”
The panel also saw automation and smart tech allowing people to do as much or as little work cooking as they want, so that it goes from “being a chore to a joy”. Schaeffer also foresees a fusion between smart kitchen appliances and fitness devices that monitor your health. He said: “A lot of illnesses are cause by bad nutrition. We have the technology to provide a healthier lie and tastier food.”