If you were at the 2016 Smart Kitchen Summit, you probably noticed a huge growth of smart kitchen startups in the space. From creating brand new smart appliances to printing 3D food to growing food inside your own kitchen, there are no shortages of companies trying to come up with the new big thing in kitchen tech. A few of those startups have made big waves in recent years, including smart oven maker June. The June Oven, which includes a unique heating architecture, HD camera and a built-in food thermometer, promises to take literally all the work out of cooking your food. It’s got built-in Wi-Fi and an app that lets you control, monitor and even see your food as it cooks. And after a half-year delay, the company announced it has begun shipping the $1500 appliance to its early backers.
June’s co-founders Matt Van Horn and Nikhil Bhogal debuted the oven in mid-2015 after leaving startup Path (both had solid resumes, including stints at startup that became Lyft and Apple). They were pretty secretive about what they were up to, and when they came out to debut their new concept for cooking, there was some skepticism. But they quickly pointed out that kitchen innovation had been stale -- Van Horn commenting, “there hasn’t been any real innovation in the kitchen since the 70s with the introduction of the microwave oven.” And maybe he was right -- looking around the kitchen today, we see products that might look sleeker, but basically function the same today as they did 30 or more years ago.
But what does the June Oven do that’s so unique -- and why does it cost $1500?
Unlike the majority of other early attempts at smart kitchen devices, June’s Intelligent Oven goes beyond connectivity and app control and puts a heavy focus on artificial intelligence (AI) to help consumers cook food. Powered by a quad-core NVIDIA processor, the oven’s Food ID technology uses an internal HD camera and AI software to identify the food and recommend multi-step cook programs. Once programmed, the June oven kicks into guided cooking mode, monitoring and shifting cook modes based on internal temperature readings from the oven’s internal thermometer. The oven can currently recognize 25 food types and the company expects that to continue to grow.
And while some balked at the hefty price tag for what looks like a countertop toaster oven, investors have flocked to the company, helping June raise a Series A round of $22.5 million in early 2016. In many ways, June is attempting to replace more than just your dumb oven sitting against the wall. It’s trying to replace your microwave, toaster oven and even your cookbook.
Initially targeted to ship in spring, the company said the delay was due to updates to the heating mechanisms and materials. The delays may have been worth it, as early reviews of the product seem positive, important in a market that is likely to become much more crowded in the coming year. For now, however, June is the first truly AI-powered smart oven available to consumers.