When you ask people what device in the home is ripe for a technology refresh, the oven usually isn’t at the top of the list. That’s because most of us use our ovens almost every day, without complaint, for years and decades at a time.
Why change something that works so well?
Except that it doesn’t, and the only reason so many of us think things are fine is, unlike with phones or cars, we don’t know any better since we aren’t regularly exposed to any noticeable innovation in those boring cooking boxes sitting in our kitchen.
But things are changing. Just as Nest showed us a few years ago it’s possible to rethink those white boxes in our homes like thermostats, a slew of companies are now forcing us to reconsider the oven.
June was the perhaps the first, announcing their June Intelligent last year. Today they announced their oven will ship next month, which could mark the beginning of a new wave of innovation in the oven market over the next decade. Below are some of the technologies which will change the way we think about the lowly oven in coming years:
Precision Cooking: One of the early success stories in the smart kitchen has been sous vide cookers, mostly because of the ability to apply precision cooking techniques to get chef-like results. The thing is, you can do that in an oven too, and that’s exactly what Anova plans to do with its new precision oven. Others like June and Jenn-Air are thinking the same thing, which should address one of the biggest problems with modern day ovens: wide variability in heating from brand to brand and model to model. Precision also means optimized cooking depending on the food itself. The reality is 350 degrees in one oven means a very different thing in another oven, and using the same parameters to cook in your Jenn-Air could give you very different results than cooking something in your Samsung. With more precise cooking and temperature control, both appliance makers and food brands can create very tailored instructions for the food type, quantity and for the cooking device itself.
Guided Cooking: One of the most interesting trends in the smart kitchen this year was the explosion of interest in guided cooking. While companies like Hestan and Cuciniale created countertop guided cooking systems that use a pan and induction heating surface, others like Innit want to apply a similar fusion of app-guidance, sensors, and precision cooking to create guided cooking experiences with bigger built-in appliances. What could make things even more interesting is Innit could extend the guided cooking experience further back towards prep and storage, since their platform also will be used in refrigerators and pantry systems.
AI/Machine Learning: One of the most fertile fields in machine image recognition has been food. Google and a bevy of startups have invested in research to enable a better understanding of food through image recognition, while June and Innit are working specifically to apply AI within the cooking experience itself. In addition to image recognition, the ability of devices to learn and optimize their behavior based on past cooking behavior, user preferences and contextual understanding of the consumer’s needs will lead to significant advances in intelligent cooking systems in the coming years.
New Heating Technologies: One of the biggest changes coming to ovens over the next few years will be the way in which they heat food. Traditional ovens use electric or gas heating, and in the last few decades, convection heating has become a standard feature on most consumer ovens. But soon we will see a variety of new and interesting heating methods, ranging from the new RF cooking technology from NXP to the steam cooking included in ovens from Anova and Tovala.
Interfaces: One of the biggest changes in ovens will simply be the way in which we interact with them. The old way of programming a cook through a number of often confusing buttons was ripe for a refresh, and most of the new entrants in this space are creating compelling new industrial designs and interfaces. Whether it’s the physical dial on the June or Amazon’s Alexa, we can soon expect that we will be interacting – and talking – to our ovens in vastly different ways in the future.