Touchless technology, voice automation and app-controlled appliances are bringing kitchens into the digital age

Excerpt via WSJ

 “My ovens are almost more advanced than my computer.”

Douglas Gilman chose a speed oven that combines convection and microwave technology.

Eating may still be analog, but kitchens have taken up residence in the digital age, as designers and appliance makers increasingly rely on a host of technological innovations to update the traditional tasks of cooking, storing and cleaning up. Kitchen-appliance categories haven’t changed much since the 1970s, when microwave ovens began appearing on ordinary countertops. But cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence and newfangled materials are now turning those appliances into ultrasophisticated hardware, while smart functions and connectivity are recasting the Cloud as the latest kitchen accessory.

As the pandemic draws new focus to the kitchen, with families forsaking frequent dinners out for daily home-cooked meals, players in the industry are noticing an uptake in sales—accompanied by a greater interest in high-tech options. Even induction stovetops, which can be a hard sell for gas-loving Americans, have seen demand rise by 35% in the U.S.

Phoenix Homeowner Dean Heckler relies on sensors in his Miele coffee maker to measure the cup size of his latte, and uses Apps to adjust the lights in his kitchen, monitor solar-power production for his house and adjust his living-room thermostat. VIDEO: Steve Craft for The Wall Street Journal

Buyers of Miele’s new G7000 series dishwashers never have to worry about running out of detergent. When the machine runs low, a sensor prompts their smartphones to reorder the brand’s trademark detergent disk from the company’s online shop.

Mr. Gilman’s West Village dining room, just off the kitchen, has a high-tech LED fixture from Austria’s Kaia Lighting.

Meanwhile, Bosch, Miele’s competitor in the luxury dishwasher market, has introduced Zeolite, an alkaline mineral compound, in its new dishwasher series. Among other tasks, the compound helps plastic items dry more efficiently.

The Hecklers of Phoenix have a kitchen that features a sensor-equipped Miele coffee maker, lights controlled from a smartphone app and a Dekton composite countertop that resists heat, light and scratches. A nearby TV has the option of an app-created camouflage screen when not in use

Elsewhere in the kitchen, cameras in refrigerators can be called up on smartphones, allowing you to look into your fridge from the grocery aisle to see what you need to buy. For European homeowners, Bosch’s new Cloud-accessing system has a fridge camera to suggest recipes based on what you already have on-hand.

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Covid-19 is changing homeowners’ basic expectations for the kitchen, according to a new survey compiled by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Companies are seeing soaring requests for items that help keep the cooking area more sanitized, such as touchless faucets and antimicrobial surfaces.

Kohler, the Wisconsin-based plumbing company that specializes in luxury finishes, says a majority of homeowners recently sampled are starting to regard the touchless faucets as must-haves. Kohler now combines voice automation with their touchless feature, allowing you to command your faucet to pour exact amounts of water. Homeowners can go so far as to customize voice orders by recipe. Daniel Markham, a Utah-based influencer who has Kohler faucets in his new home, shouts out “mac and cheese” for just the right amount of water for the recipe his family of five uses.

Thermador, the California-based luxury appliance brand, offers an extra-low simmering feature that, the company says, lets you melt chocolate on a paper plate. Thermador users can hook up all its appliances categories to the same app, which will alert you that the fridge door is open, let you preheat your oven, or adjust the temperature of your wine cabinet to accommodate an unusual varietal. On its high-tech to-do list: finding ways to digitalize its luxury gas stoves.

Designer-kitchen makers are also going high-tech. This year, Italy’s Boffi introduced its high-performance ceramic-like material, called MDI, which can be used for a range of kitchen surfaces, including countertops and filler space around appliances. Nonporous, as well as crack- and stain-resistant, it is much easier to clean, and therefore more hygienic. A high-tech alternative to other materials, such as stone and stainless steel, it has a grain-like finish that is soft to the touch.

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