Researchers at Dartmouth College, Wuhan University, Southeast University, and Microsoft Research have developed a fabric that can identify what foods and other types of objects placed on it (hat tip to Engadget).
Dubbed Capacitivo, the technology attaches a grid of electrodes to a textile. By applying an electric field to the fabric and some machine learning, objects placed on it can be identified by measuring any shift in capacitance.
The technology can detect different types of food, even when those items are inside containers like water glasses and bowls. According to the paper, the tech also has an average accuracy of 90.71 percent.
You might be thinking, “Why would I need my tablecloth to tell me what’s on it, I can see whatever I put on it.” Well, according to the paper, the readings from the fabric could be integrated with other kitchen and cooking apps. For example, you could place a bunch of fruits on a table and based on that have a smoothie recipe suggested to you. When you eat dinner, your meal could automatically be uploaded to a diet tracking app. Or when making a meal, it could provide some form of guided cooking by telling you which ingredients to add and when.
The technology isn’t perfect. It has a hard time with metallic objects, and researchers said it isn’t very good at identifying specific liquids (e.g. distinguishing a beer from a Coke). But, this is a fist step that it still very much in the lab. With a little imagination, it’s not hard to see how a smart surface like this could be integrated to talk with your appliances to create an even more connected kitchen.