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Computer Runs Show in Futuristic Kitchen : Technology: The voice-activated system takes much of the work out of cooking. The hard part is coming up with the six-figure price.

July 22, 1990|From Associated Press

If the 16th-Century classical Roman architect Andrea Palladio was asked to design a kitchen for the post 20th-Century starship Enterprise, it might look something like the one in this year's Kips Bay decorator show house in New York.

The stark, yet luxurious, black and white room, priced into six figures, was designed by Eric Bernard to, he says, make people in tuxedos look good. Features, he says, are "a ceiling that looks like a cathedral, a floor for an emperor's chamber and a range hood that looks like a pipe organ.

"Although 90% of my clients have a catering service or a cook, I thought it would be silly not to make the working part as easy and enjoyable as possible."

Thus, he incorporated all the new technological bells and whistles he could find. There are voice-activated appliances, a revolving pantry, a garbage recycling system and a computerized scale that not only weighs you but suggests a diet when you've gained a few pounds.

The kitchen, 14-by-28 feet, is divided into three domed sections. The main circular work space is in the large central area. Entering the room, you find a multiscreened computer and audiovisual system. At the other end, in an alcove, is an oversize refrigerator with glass doors and the electrified pantry shelves.

While the look is stunning--black granite counters, rounded white laminate cabinets, smoked-glass doors, glass domed ceilings and black-and-white Italian tile floors--it's the technology that seems more startling.

The voice-activated system, which can be programmed to recognize up to four voices, can turn lights and televisions on and off, start and stop the toaster, coffee maker, blender and food processor, and start moving the pantry shelves so you can easily retrieve a can of peas or a package of spaghetti.

The computer that can be linked to a bathroom scale has been programmed to provide nutritional information and recipes. If a list of foods on hand is kept up to date, the computer could list needed supplies, print out shopping lists for specific recipes and indicate appropriate recipes for dieters. Hookups between the videocassette recorder and computer make it possible to watch a cooking demonstration and then call up the recipe.

The pantry works like an electrified dumbwaiter. The compact unit has a series of shallow shelves that move up and down with the touch of a button. Instead of reaching up or down for the desired item, you press a button and wait for the item to come to you. Manual operation is possible, too, in case of power failure. Each shelf holds up to 50 pounds.

Bernard says it would cost between $200,000 and $300,000, depending on equipment, to duplicate the kitchen for a client. Of course, it didn't cost the sponsors anywhere near that, because materials and labor were charitable contributions.

Contractor Ray Beech says this kitchen is different in degree more than kind from other luxury kitchens. The waste-disposal system--a prototype--is designed with recycling in mind. Four chutes deliver sorted trash to separate containers in the basement. Beech says similar, less-expensive systems already are on the market.

The voice activator has been installed in about 6,000 homes and costs $4,500, he says. The pantry carousel is about $8,000, not including labor and installation. And he says computers already are a part of many kitchens, which these days are likely to be viewed as family rooms as well.

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