Each year, it seems one appliance brand stands out at CES with an interesting new take on the kitchen that intrigues with the possibilities.
At CES 2019, it was Whirlpool, who shocked and awed with the sheer amount of new product concepts they rolled out, including an augmented reality-enabled smart oven.
This year’s CES standout in the kitchen was GE Appliances. Not because the appliance company had a whole bunch of cool products ready to roll out to market, but more because they showcased a bigger way of thinking around solving real-world issues. In other words, rather than create product demos designed as show-off vehicles for new technologies, GE illustrated how these technologies could be employed in a cohesive, systematic way to provide consumers answers to some of their biggest problems.
Here are the three demos I saw at the GE Appliances booth that caught my attention:
While intelligent home grow systems seemed to catch on at CES this year with big appliance brands for the first time, the most interesting conceptualization of an indoor, tech-powered gardening came from GE. The company’s Home Grown concept featured a mix of hydroponics, aeroponics and soil-based grow systems built into the design of the kitchen as part of a cohesive sustainable kitchen workflow.
You can see a full walkthrough of the Home Grown concept below:
One thing that struck me about the Home Grown concept is it commanded a lot of space. I have to wonder how many consumers would be willing to give up such a large part of their kitchen counter real estate to growing food, and I can see how brown thumbs like myself would be worried they’d soon have dead plants spread across their entire kitchen.
That said, Home Grown is largely conceptual at this point, so the company shouldn’t be penalized by more practical concerns like the sheer size of the demo. Once (and if) the products gets closer to market, GE can make adjustments with different size gardens to fit specific needs.
GE’s ‘Shift’ proof of concept showed how the company saw itself at the center a fully intelligent -- and personalized -- physical kitchen space.
So what is Shift? In the simplest terms, it’s an adaptable (or shiftable) physical kitchen space that personalizes itself towards the needs of each user.
The concept video below was put together by GE to illustrate how Shift could help a wheelchair-bound user:
In an era where everything is becoming more personalized, the idea of a personalized physical space based on the specific needs of the person makes lots of sense. Much like we have the ability to adjust our car seat to fit our own height or buy shoes that fit our feet, there’s no reason why in an era of lower cost robotics, IoT and smart sensors we shouldn’t think about adapting the space around us to fit our needs.
Kitchen Hub 2020
Finally, at CES 2020 GE rolled out the second edition of its Kitchen Hub , its kitchen screen/home command center.
You can see a walkthrough of the product shot at the GE Appliances booth below:
The most obvious difference with the new version is GE made the video touch screen the front door of a usable microwave oven. They also added an additional camera over the counter prep station as an option as well as improved food image recognition. Tying the experience together for food recognition and guided cooking is the Freshly app (powered by SideChef), which will recognize food, suggest recipes, and provide cooking guidance.
Also cool: The improved machine vision allows the system to recognize progress within a cook session. Below the Kitchen Hub camera captures a picture of a steak on the grill and let’s the user know that it has reached the desired doneness.
What struck me most about this version of the Kitchen Hub compared to the 2018 first edition is how the latest version just seems more practical. As a useable front screen for the microwave, Kitchen Hub is simply more useful and less awkward than as a standalone TV screen sitting atop your cooking range.
It’s also seems to fit more organically as a natural part of a next-generation kitchen. By coordinating the various cooking systems and, eventually, what’s in the fridge (SideChef is powering Haier smart fridges ), it seems GE is working towards building a platform that delivers valuable cooking assistance, inventory management and smart home control without being overly forced.
I left GE’s booth thinking that while much of what they showed off is still a few years away, I appreciate the moonshot thinking of the Home Grown, Shift and the practical advances they’ve made with their Kitchen Hub platform.