The connected home was a fantasy just a decade ago. A home that can respond to your demands and adjust to your preferences sounds more like the premise of an awesome “Twilight Zone” episode. But with the introduction of smart technology into everyday appliances, the completely connected home is now a reality.
Products like Nest, which allow users to control their thermostat via their mobile phone, and other smart technology, such as the Cinder Sensing Cooker, a skillet which uses smart sensors to adjust cooking temperature based on the food and desired result (such as rare versus medium rare), the connected home is ushering in a new era of convenience for homeowners.
But that’s the problem that we at Digital Telepathy have with the most recent generation of smart products for the home, they are simply that: convenient. Yes, it’s great to be able to turn off lights, control the temperature of your house, and even lock and unlock doors from your mobile phone, but it is certainly not going to change your life. Much of the connected home technology has come in the form of gadgets. We haven’t really seen successful integration with larger appliances or truly compelling use cases. Yet.
The Smart Stove
We have an in-house innovation team here working to apply our design practice to everyday problems and improve the lives of more people — redesigning life’s experiences, not just digital interfaces. The team turned their attention to the connected home and one of the most ubiquitous experiences in the world: cooking. We examined the possibilities of designing a smart microwave or even a smart refrigerator, but we didn’t feel that those concepts would create enough impact for the end user. After some careful deliberation, we decided to design a stove worthy of Jane Jetson, instead of June Cleaver.
In 2013, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that just 44 percent of households cooked dinner 2 to 5 times a week. This made us think, improving upon the stove’s technology for the everyday cook would ultimately help people cook better food. Instead of simply making a stove more convenient (like turning on your oven from your phone…come on, that’s too easy), we set out to overhaul the entire cooking experience and make it easier and more fun for everyone.
To get started, we conducted a thorough investigation into today’s stove technology, examining what is available currently for the average consumer and what is truly missing. We talked to regular Joes who cook at home, and some professional chefs, too, to discover what one experiences when they cook.
When looking at the user journey for cooking, there were opportunities for improvement. While the prep and cooking experiences may be better than shopping, actually following the recipe (especially with modifications) can be a daunting task. It seemed so easy online, but when you compare your finished product with the photo, it looks nothing like it should.
Been there before? Us too. That is why we asked ourselves, “How can we make preparing and cooking a good meal nearly foolproof?”
Our innovation team explored a variety of materials and interfaces early on in the design process.
Creating The Concept
Once we identified the friction within the cooking experience, and heard from users about their own personal experiences, we decided we would design our Smart Stove features around three stages: Recipe exploration, preparation and cooking.
We set out to design a Smart Stove that was a completely realistic concept, something that could easily be integrated into the today’s kitchen. Our innovation team spent weeks brainstorming features, whiteboarding ideas, and vetting through user interviews to come up with the features of the stove. Staying true to the goal of completely achievable technology, we also brought in engineers to discuss if what we envisioned could really be brought to life.
With features in mind, we created wireframes and sketches for the stove to be sure that the function and design was seamless and consistent.
From choosing recipes and preparing ingredients, to physically cooking your meal, the Smart Stove completely changes the way we find recipes, prepare and cook our meals.
A Smarter Way to Cook
More than just a heating source, our Smart Stove is equipped with an interactive UI that provides step-by-step navigation through a recipe to create a delicious meal from start to finish.
The Smart Stove would make it easier for people to choose recipes with a recipe database. It pulls thousands of recipes from your favorite apps, such as, Gojee, Allrecipes.com, Martha Stewart’s extensive recipe lists, or Bonappetit.com. Using its giant 29-inch touchscreen, you’ll be able to easily browse based on meal, ingredient preferences, price, nutrition facts and more, all with just a little tap of the UI screen. Over time, it will learn your preferences and serve up recommended recipes a la Netflix. We feel confident that using this UI will help remove the friction that many would-be chefs face as they search tirelessly from their iPhones, trying to avoid dropping their precious phone into their concoctions, or ransack their grandmother’s tired recipe box, trying to decipher her old-timey cursive script.
Imagine if your stove could lead you through meal preparation step-by-step. With your list of ingredients displayed, your stove’s built in sensors detect the tare weight of each component to be sure that you have enough. Personal preference overrides automatically adjust for spice level and supply ingredient substitutions. Need a little handholding? Tutorial videos are available to show you each step of the meal—and it’s all at your fingertips, right there on your stove. If you have company and need to cook for more people than you’re used to, the stove can adjust the recipe portions to accommodate more servings (because, let’s face it: Tripling a recipe with 15 different ingredients is just asking for trouble).
Cooking a meal with lots of ingredients can be intimidating, but the Smart Stove makes it easy. Once your ingredients are prepared and weighed for accuracy, your stove will provide step-by-step navigation through the recipe, with instructions and prompts for the next steps. Think of it like GPS directions. The stove helps orchestrate your recipe to be sure that each component of your meal is perfectly timed. Since the stove and recipe talk to each other, your stove knows exactly how hot your burners should be for each dish. Distracted while cooking? The stove will note the inactivity and adjust temperatures so you don’t accidentally burn your food.
The Future of Cooking
The best part is: all of the individual pieces of technology we played with to conceptualize the Smart Stove already exist today. It’s just a matter of bringing it all together—and that is the exciting part about this project: Everything you have read is plausible and could be in your kitchen this decade. Think about it: This could be the future of cooking, the technology that catapults our kitchens into a new era.
We will be examining the world around us and taking on more redesigned concepts, like the Smart Stove. We hope to make an impact on the way people live by applying our UX expertise to the world around us.