Future Kitchen, Today

The Future Kitchen, Today

Jane Jetson had only to push a button for dinner to be laid out on the table. We all sighed wistfully as we watched while the futuristic kitchen did all the dirty work. As I was organizing my cabinets after grocery shopping the other night, I was thinking about Jane Jetson and wondering when my future kitchen would arrive and what the color of the flying car would be that would deliver it. I started searching around on the internet, looking for glimmers of fully-automated electronic kitchen slave in the ether. I found a pantry that keeps track of your groceries, suggesting recipes for the night’s meal or reordering commonly used supplies as they run low; a counter top that can read ingredients, suggest baking techniques and display an interactive projection that teaches you the proper way to slice a fish for sushi. And then I was confused. The images I was looking at where not drawn, or computer generated, or fabricated for a movie set, they were real, and they are available now.

Watching a clip form Fulton Innovation’s project eCoupled I experienced a musty blast from the past-future. Like a scene from a futuristic television show, eCoupled’s test kitchen uses an autonomous, intelligent system that allows for wireless (and almost invisible) powering of blenders and stove-tops right on your counter, a cabinet-front display of your pantry inventory, as well as a screen for issuing instructions and reading temperature while you cook. By radio labeling food cartons, storage appliances can help manage the contents and track nutritional information, making suggestions to help you maintain a healthy diet (“do you really think you need one more candy bar, Tubby?”).

Culture Lab's Ambient Kitchen

When it debuted at the largest technological tradeshow CES in 2011, eCoupled was far from the only working model of a futuristic kitchen. In August of 2012 a group of computer scientists from Philips Research in The Netherlands and Culture Lab at Newcastle University demonstrated the Ambient Kitchen, a “pervasive sensing environment designed for improving cooking skills, promoting healthier eating, and helping cognitively impaired people to live more independent in their own homes.” Evert J. van Loenen of Philips Research believes that by adding these adaptive user-systems, digital environments can be created “which improve the quality of life of people by acting on their behalf.” These innovations not only enable us to work more efficiently in the kitchen, they also attempt to improve our interaction with technology by making it more intuitive, efficient, and secure.larder

Philips Design: ‘larder’ is a dining room table that doubles as a food storage system and evaporative cooler– similar to a kind of natural refrigerator.

With every new advancement in technology, however shiny and bright and new, there are dissidents. Evgeny Morozov, writing for Slate Magazine, sees the ambient kitchen as an Orwellian nightmare, one that removes the unique human capacity for inspiration, experimentation and error, effectively undermining the human condition through technology. “As a result, chefs are imagined not as autonomous virtuosi or gifted craftsmen but as enslaved robots who should never defy the commands of their operating systems,” he writes. The Luddites took up this tome during the industrial revolution, tearing down textile machines and raising cries about the dehumanization that mechanization brings. As textile machines began mass producing the majority of the world’s clothing, many fashion designers kept to the hand made, individually designed article. I, however, simply do not have the 15,000 dollars to spend on a hand sewn Valentino dress. Morozov suggests that if tasks are delegated away from humans, we will somehow lose all sense of how to push forward, to improve and enhance our society; that, if machines are to take over daily tasks, we’ll have nothing left to do but sit on the couch and twiddle our thumbs. Yet, there are millions who pop a TV dinner in the microwave every night, to have more time to, as the name suggests, watch TV. Wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of the frozen dinner, we could have a gourmet meal sourced from Alice Waters at Chez Panisse? I don’t believe that machine produced Mona Lisas will ever overtake the original, but I am happy that I can remember it in an art history book.

Many of these developers believe the kitchen is “the heart of the home” and seek to build intimacy between parents and children, raise self-confidence, and provide robotic or computer coached learning experiences in the kitchen. Electrolux, an innovative appliance design company, works from extensive consumer-based research to determine what advancements would be most helpful, and design their products accordingly. Their futuristic kitchen concept is called, simply, “The Heart of the Home,” a revolutionary kitchen design that uses an amorphous surface for cooking and visual aids with i-pad like sensibilities. The company says the design was inspired by “the person driven by culinary curiosity using new technology without removing the essence of cooking.”


Electrolux “Heart of the Home” Concept

Developers are also looking toward technological advancements that would help the environment and create sustainable kitchens. Philips eco-friendly microbial home was on display at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in 2011, premiering a concept home design that “adopts a systemic approach to domestic activity, connecting machines into a cyclical system of input and output that minimizes waste.”  Leading furniture and design company Ikea commissioned a report by The Future Laboratory entitled “On the Future of Kitchens”, which focuses on how environmental responsibilities will reshape our homes. Their aim is to develop kitchens where food is grown and stored, waste is recycled and turned into energy, and where computers help to track energy use and makes energy-efficient decisions for you. Natural refrigeration methods are being developed that use sand to keep things cool, reclaimed wood and stone for structural materials. There are even hopes of a fridge that helps to maintain and manage your emotional well-being by 2040.

In the future of futuristic kitchens we see trends toward family oriented technologies, around the clock on-call nutritionists, recipe and pantry management, and an ease of cooking and baking that allows for more time spent with our hands free. Maybe then we can find the time to make those moving sidewalks, jet packs and flying cars a reality.


Design Boom has the coolest stuff…

Philips eco-friendly microbial home

First of all….what? Second of all, what?? Check out the urban beehive halfway through. This is genius designing…way to go Philips.

the ‘microbial home’ concept by philips design

the ‘microbial home’ by philips design is a concept home design that adopts a systemic approach to domestic activity,
connecting machines into a cyclical system of input and output that minimizes waste. as the designers explain,
we view the home as a biological machine to filter, process, and recycle what we conventionally think of as waste.’
from domestic beekeeping (‘urban beehive’) to gardens that decompose plastic waste (the ‘paternoster’),
view more information about each of the component prototype devices below.

the ‘microbial home’ was on exhibition at the piet hein eek gallery during dutch design week 2011 in eindhoven, the netherlands.

the ‘methane bio-digester’ kitchen island generates energy for use in cooking and heating

methane bio-digester

the ‘bio-digester’ is a kitchen island that includes a chopping surface with waste grinder and gas cooking range.
in the device, ‘bio-gas’ is produced by developing gas-generating bacteria cultures that live off of organic waste.
the bacterias’ gas is collected and burnt, for use in the built-in cooking range and lights or sent through to heat water pipes
and be used in other components of the ‘microbial home’.

view of cutting surface

detail on cooking range
image © designboom

‘larder’ evaporative cooler dining room table


‘larder’ is a dining room table that doubles as a food storage system and evaporative cooler– similar to a kind of natural
refrigerator. the center of the table is composed of inset terra cotta boxes, whose outer surface is warmed by the hot water pipes
from the methane ‘bio-digester’. the compartments vary in wall thickness and volume, providing spaces of diverse temperatures
for storing different kinds of produce.

detail on terra cotta cooling compartments
image © designboom

the ‘paternoster’ mushroom garden decomposes plastic waste


the ‘paternoster’ is a ‘plastic waste up-cycler’ that uses mycelium fungus to break down plastic packages and bags.
enzymes within the fungus can decompose the plastic, utilizing the material for food and thus producing edible mushrooms
(as long as the inks on the plastic do not contain toxic materials). mushroom cultures are grown in glass and inserted into
a holster wheel within the device. each week, plastic grounds are mixed with the mycelium. the front surface of ‘paternoster’
can be opened to reveal all of the machine’s inner workings for educational purposes.

detail on inner gear
image © designboom

‘urban beehive’

urban beehive

the ‘urban beehive’ is designed to facilitate domestic beekeeping. installed into an exterior wall, one side of the device offers
an integrated flowerpot below an entry tunnel for the bees. as the creatures fly into the main hive, they find a preexisting
honeycomb structure on which they can build their wax cells. the glass shell permits the entry of orange light, which bees
use for sight, while rendering visible the interior structure and work of the bees.

the exterior side of the device
image © designboom

detail on hive
image © designboom

image © designboom


‘bio-lights’ use either bioluminescent bacteria, fed with methane and composted material from the ‘methane bio-digester’,
or fluorescent proteins to generate light for home. the lamp structure is a wall of glass cells suspended in a hung or freestanding
steel frame, filled with biological cells. the low-intensity light generated requires no electricity and might be adapted to urban,
highway, and navigational use in addition to domestic.

the ‘filtering squatting toilet’

filtering squatting toilet

the ‘filtering squatting toilet’ requires no external energy, saving water by using a special flush mechanism.
the device filters excrement to the ‘methane bio-digester’ for use as energy.

research suggests that squatting toilets provide health benefits such as decreased risk of colorectal cancers,
in comparison to sitting toilets, and in the philips design, a built-in handrail improves comfort and balance.

Rad Technologies Projected or Being Developed

23 incredible new technologies you’ll see by 2021

By On October 17, 2011 

Down the cybernetic rabbit hole we go. Photo by Harold Hoyer.

The Maya said we’re due for a shake-up soon. Turns out, they were right.

****This post is brought to you in partnership between Matador and [their] friends at Intel. Join [them] in the conversation on Twitter with #IntelEMP.

WHEN LOOKING AT THE present as an indication of where we’ll stand a year from now–much less a decade–feeling optimistic may not come easy. We look out to the universe and see an infinite, lifeless abyss enfolding upon our own small pocket of civilization, while the people we look to for guidance and information seem to be little more than straight-faced bearers of bad news.

Yet while we can’t predict what the future holds for our unending political discourses, we can look at how far we’ve come with technology in merely the last decade and realize the present we know now will, very soon, find itself memorialized in nostalgia. Here’s some technology emerging down the road that’s poised to change your life on a much greater scale than any outcome of a political debate.


Ultrabooks – The last two years have been all about the tablet. Laptops, with their “untouchable” screens, have yet to match any tablet’s featherweight portability and zippy response times. However, by next year, ultraportable notebooks–Ultrabooks–will finally be available for under $1000, bringing a complete computing experience into areas of life which, until now, have only been partially filled by smaller technologies such as tablets and smartphones. They weigh around three pounds, measure less than an inch thick, and the hard drives are flash-based, which means they’ll have no moving parts, delivering zippy-quick startups and load times.

The Mars Science Laboratory – By August 2012, the next mission to Mars will reach the Martian surface with a new rover named Curiosity focusing on whether Mars could ever have supported life, and whether it might be able to in the future. Curiosity will be more than 5 times larger than the previous Mars rover, and the mission will cost around $2.3 billion — or just about one and a half New Yankee Stadiums.

The Brain Cap, from U of Maryland.

The paralyzed will walk. But, perhaps not in the way that you’d imagine. Using a machine-brain interface, researchers are making it possible for otherwise paralyzed humans to control neuroprostheses–essentially mechanical limbs that respond to human thought–allowing them to walk and regain bodily control. The same systems are also being developed for the military, which one can only assume means this project won’t flounder due to a lack of funding.


The Rise of Electronic Paper – Right now, e-paper is pretty much only used in e-readers like the Kindle, but it’s something researchers everywhere are eager to expand upon. Full-color video integration is the obvious next step, and as tablet prices fall, it’s likely newspapers will soon be fully eradicated from their current form. The good news: less deforestation, and more user control over your sources.

4G will be the new standard in cell phone networks. What this means: your phone will download data about as fast as your home computer can. While you’ve probably seen lots of 4G banter from the big cell providers, it’s not very widely available in most phones. However, both Verizon and the EU intend to do away with 3G entirely by 2013, which will essentially bring broadband-level speeds to wireless devices on cell networks. It won’t do away with standard internet providers, but it will bring “worldwide WiFi” capabilities to anyone with a 4G data plan.

The Eye of Gaia, a billion-pixel telescope will be sent into space this year to begin photographing and mapping the universe on a scale that was recently impossible. With the human eye, one can see several thousand stars on a clear night; Gaia will observe more than a billion over the course of its mission–about 1% of all the stars in the Milky Way. As well, it will look far beyond our own galaxy, even as far as the end of the (observable) universe.


A 1 Terabyte SD Memory Card probably seems like an impossibly unnecessary technological investment. Many computers still don’t come with that much memory, much less SD memory cards that fit in your digital camera. Yet thanks to Moore’s Law we can expect that the 1TB SD card will become commonplace in 2014, and increasingly necessary given the much larger swaths of data and information that we’re constantly exchanging every day (thanks to technologies like memristors and our increasing ever-connectedness). The only disruptive factor here could be the rise of cloud-computing, but as data and transfer speeds continue to rise, it’s inevitable that we’ll need a physical place to store our digital stuff.

The first around-the-world flight by a solar-powered plane will be accomplished by now, bringing truly clean energy to air transportation for the first time. Consumer models are still far down the road, but you don’t need to let your imagination wander too far to figure out that this is definitely a game-changer. Consider this: it took humans quite a few milennia to figure out how to fly; and only a fraction of that time to do it with solar power.

The Solar Impulse, to be flown around the world. Photo by Stephanie Booth

The world’s most advanced polar icebreaker is currently being developed as a part of the EU’s scientific development goals and is scheduled to launch in 2014. As global average temperatures continue to climb, an understanding and diligence to the polar regions will be essential to monitoring the rapidly changing climates–and this icebreaker will be up to the task.

$100 personal DNA sequencing is what’s being promised by a company called BioNanomatrix, which the company founder Han Cao has made possible through his invention of the ‘nanofluidic chip.’ What this means: by being able to cheaply sequence your individual genome, a doctor could biopsy a tumor, sequence the DNA, and use that information to determine a prognosis and prescribe treatment for less than the cost of a modern-day x-ray. And by specifically inspecting the cancer’s DNA, treatment can be applied with far more specific–and effective–accuracy.


The world’s first zero-carbon, sustainable city in the form of Masdar City will be initially completed just outside of Abu Dhabi. The city will derive power solely from solar and other renewable resources, offer homes to more than 50,000 people.

Personal 3D Printing is currently reserved for those with extremely large bank accounts or equally large understandings about 3D printing; but by 2015, printing in three dimensions (essentially personal manufacturing) will become a common practice in the household and in schools. Current affordable solutions include do-it-yourself kits like Makerbot, but in four years it should look more like a compact version of the uPrint. Eventually, this technology could lead to technologies such as nanofabricators and matter replicators–but not for at least a few decades.


Space tourism will hit the mainstream. Well, sorta. Right now it costs around $20-30 million to blast off and chill at the International Space Station, or $200,000 for a sub-orbital spaceflight from Virgin Galactic. But the market is growing faster than most realize: within five years, companies like Space Island, Galactic Suite, and Orbital Technologies may realize their company missions, with space tourism packages ranging from $10,000 up-and-backs to $1 million five-night stays in an orbiting hotel suite.

The sunscreen pill will hit the market, protecting the skin as well as the eyes from UV rays. By reverse-engineering the way coral reefs shield themselves from the sun, scientists are very optimistic about the possibility, much to the dismay of sunscreen producers everywhere.

Back from extinction. Image by JenJeff.

A Wooly Mammoth will be reborn among other now-extinct animals in 2016, assuming all goes according to the current plans of Japan’s Riken Center for Developmental Biology. If they can pull it off, expect long lines at Animal Kingdom.


Portable laser pens that can seal wounds – Imagine you’re hiking fifty miles from the nearest human, and you slip, busting your knee wide open, gushing blood. Today, you might stand a chance of some serious blood loss–but in less than a decade you might be carrying a portable laser pen capable of sealing you back up Wolverine-style.


Light Peak technology, a method of super-high-data-transfer, will enable more than 100 Gigabytes per second–and eventually whole terabytes per second–within everyday consumer electronics. This enables the copying of entire hard drives in a matter of seconds, although by this time the standard hard drive is probably well over 2TB.

Insect-sized robot spies aren’t far off from becoming a reality, with the military currently hard at work to bring Mission Impossible-sized tech to the espionage playground. Secret weapon: immune to bug spray.


The average PC has the power of the human brain. According to Ray Kurzweil, who has a better grip on the future than probably anyone else, the Law of Accelerating Returns will usher in an exponentially greater amount of computing power than every before.

The Web Within Us. Image by Anna Lena Schiller.

Web 3.0 – What will it look like? Is it already here? It’s always difficult to tell just where we stand in terms of technological chronology. But if we assume that Web 1.0 was based only upon hyperlinks, and Web 2.0 is based on the social, person-to-person sharing of links, then Web 3.0 uses a combination of socially-sourced information, curated by a highly refined, personalizable algorithm (“they” call it the Semantic Web). We’re already in the midst of it, but it’s still far from its full potential.

Energy from a fusion reactor has always seemed just out of reach. It’s essentially the process of producing infinite energy from a tiny amount of resources, but it requires a machine that can contain a reaction that occurs at over 125,000,000 degrees. However, right now in southern France, the fusion reactor of the future is being built to power up by 2019, with estimates of full-scale fusion power available by 2030.


Crash-proof cars have been promised by Volvo, to be made possible by using radar, sonar, and driver alert systems. Considering automobile crashes kill over 30,000 people in the U.S. per year, this is definitely a welcome technology.


So, what should we expect in 2021? Well, 10 years ago, what did you expect to see now? Did you expect the word “Friend” to become a verb? Did you expect your twelve-year-old brother to stay up texting until 2am? Did you expect 140-character messaging systems enabling widespread revolutions against decades-old dictatorial regimes?

The next 10 years will be an era of unprecedented connectivity; this much we know. It will build upon the social networks, both real and virtual, that we’ve all played a role in constructing, bringing ideas together that would have otherwise remained distant, unknown strangers. Without twitter and a steady drip of mainstream media, would we have ever so strongly felt the presence of the Arab Spring? What laughs, gasps, or loves, however fleeting, would have been lost if not for Chatroulette? Keeping in mind that as our connections grow wider and more intimate, so too will the frequency of our connectedness, and as such, your own understanding of just what kinds of relationships are possible will be stretched and revolutionized as much as any piece of hardware.

Truly, the biggest changes we’ll face will not come in the form of any visible technology; the changes that matter most, as they always have, will occur in those places we know best but can never quite see: our own hearts and minds.

Green Cities – Possibilities of the Future?

There’s a large trend towards imagining future cities (to hold the exponential billions of people that will be living X years from now) as “green” cities. As sustainable, eco-friendly, and, literally, green. Architectural sketches are rife with grass roofs, plants climbing up walls and ranging around interiors as if your new apartment-complex-3000 was itself a rainforest. What do these imaginings have to say about our current state of affairs? Well, we know that at least a large number of us are Eco-conscious, that there is a desire to make crowded living spaces beautiful and infused with nature, though the suggestion underlies: will there be a lack of nature around the cities so we must infuse our buildings with it? But even now, who wouldn’t these gorgeous green giants filling up New York City? Steel and gray buildings seems a bit outdated by today’s standards. We want to see sleek, integrative design, use of natural habitats, and a vision towards buildings of today that are a bit futuristic.

Check out these sketches and real photographs and tell me what you think about our growing love of green cities.

What about this? A poll on Images of the Future: Green Cityscape

As we grow more earth-conscious in order to save the environment (and ourselves), imaginings of future city-scapes take on a less gloomy look. Could you imagine this as reality? Would you want to live here? How far in the future does this artist rendition of the future seem?

gree city scape sci fiMitchell Joachim’s Eco-City Nick Kaloterakis