Why Is Tech Obsessed With Smart Kitchens?

But it’s not an iMac. It’s a new microwave from GE. Did I mention it also heats your food and features an exhaust hood?

[Photos: GE, NOKFreelance/iStock]
At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), kitchen appliance manufacturers are in rare form. While the “smart refrigerator” has been around as a concept since 1991 (and a product since 1998), this year we’re seeing every single function you’d expect in a modern smartphone or PC–from giant touch screens and AI assistants–stuck inside a box that chills or cooks food.

Philips introduced a 24-inch kitchen screen with Google Assistant that specializes in recipes. GE has its iMicrowave (okay, it’s called a Kitchen Hub). Samsung, confusingly, also offers a Family “Hub,” but it’s actually a fridge with Bixby voice-controlled AI and a decent speaker system. Perhaps the biggest smart kitchen armament was announced by LG, which debuted a bunker buster smart fridge that sports a 29-inch screen running webOS with full Amazon Alexa support. AI is often advertised as the defining feature of these gargantuan machines, but they dwarf Google Home or Echo Show as absurdist spectacles. One thousand Google Home Minis must fit inside the footprint of a single LG super-fridge!

So, why is the appliance industry’s go-to game plan to throw the kitchen sink . . . at the kitchen sink? It may have something to do with our current attention economy or the fact that some of the industry’s main players also make smartphones and PCs–or the way our home appliances tend to reflect the concerns of Americans in any given era.

My first thought was that LG and Samsung–makers of smartphones, TVs, and tablets–must have something to do with this rise of LCD-infused kitchenware. Surely, these tech powerhouses must be adding touch screens to their appliances as a strategy for besting their U.S. counterparts, Whirlpool and GE. Yet Samsung has been making fridges since 1972. LG has been making kitchen appliances even longer, since the 1950s. It’s just taken the better part of five decades for both Korean companies to usurp Whirlpool and GE as the number one and two brands in total dollar sales in this space, respectively. So we can’t simply attribute all these new products to the fact that “tech” companies are making appliances.

[Photos: LG, NOKFreelance/iStock]
It’s hard to know how much these bells and whistles have helped either company. It’s possible that this tablet-happy kitchen technology really has helped LG and Samsung get an edge; analysts claim that various design novelties have helped each company differentiate itself from the old guard appliance manufacturers, but brands don’t disclose the success of individual products in their lineups. (Whirlpool points to patent violations and subsidies from the Korean government as both having a factor in its own loss of market share.) It’s hard to believe that the butt of a >Silicon Valley joke is really wooing middle America to spend $3,500-plus on a refrigerator just because it’s iPhone-y.

Source : https://www.fastcodesign.com/90156358/why-is-tech-obsessed-with-smart-kitchens

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