Forget the fridge, now there's an oven to make us dumber

30 Jun 2016

As featured in DisruptiveViews

There are some truly insane things going on in the world right now. Think US elections, Brexit, Boris and the rather inconvenient truth that access to the European Single Market – if you’re not a member – is far more expensive than if you are. On top of this madness comes news of an oven that knows what you just put in it.

Remember the fridge that tracked what you used and ordered replacement stock for you, well, this is even madder and some people even think this is cool (the oven not the fridge). They will even fund the daft idea!

The start-up in the US has just raised $25 million to make your kitchen smarter. What it does is track food from your fridge to your table, via your cooking appliances. It can check how fresh things are; it suggests recipes; and when you turn your cooker on (surely it should be able to do that for you) it can tell that it is pork and will cook it accordingly. Or, if you don’t like pork, it will (presumably) throw it away and say no more about it.

This company and this kind of investment perhaps says more about Silicon Valley than it does about this kind of ‘advance’. Invent that kind of Internet of Silly Things (IoST) in Edinburgh and you would swiftly be laughed out of the offices of any investment house in the city.

Surely no-one in their right mind actually wants their oven to take over the evening meal. Surely cooking (and eating) a meal as a family is one of the few things left that actually binds a family together.

Perhaps, though, this kind of madness is the farthest point on the pendulum of the Internet of Completely Dumb Ideas trying to do “the things your mother used to do for you.”

This is not to say that we think that connecting anything that stands still long enough is altogether a bad thing. There are some things that make sense and will increase our health, wealth and well being. How could we forget the smart frying pan that wants to help you cook better food. And the smart plate that is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled that comes equipped with three mini cameras and weight sensors. Don’t forget the egg minder that will keep count of your eggs – up to 14 – letting you know (using LED lights and the companion app) which ones are the oldest and which ones might be going bad. Or the classic HAPIfork, the connected cutlery that measures how many mouthfuls you take and buzzes and flashes if you’re scoffing your grub too quickly. And for those that like a tipple there’s Soma bar, the robotic bartender, to help make home made cocktails taste less like paint-stripper.

Unlike these gems there are many, many things that are just plain stupid. And things are being now invented simply because we are in the updraft of another bubble. Put the Internet of Things (or a More Connected Kitchen) on a piece of paper and write ‘Business Plan’ underneath it. Then throw it into Silicon Valley and they will throw a million dollars back at you. Madness?

Hopefully, soon, we will wake up, Brexit hangover almost forgotten, and realize that when we make our appliances smarter, we make ourselves dumber.

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