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MIT's Kitchen of the Future

May 16, 1999

Imagine a fully networked kitchen with pots and pans, utensils, appliances and ingredients loaded with sensors and links. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab in Cambridge is conjuring just that--inventing new domestic devices for the most sensory-rich place in the home. Look for some of this imaginative "counter intelligence" to be out of the lab and into your kitchen within the next 15 years, produced by commercial manufacturers who are underwriting the research:

* A talking oven mitt tells you when a dish is done via its temperature sensor and a microprocessor with a voice chip.

* The Mr. Java coffee pot makes a cuppa joe and, through a computer monitor, gives you the latest news, weather and stock reports.

* A visiphone offers the global kitchen now. It's Thanksgiving. Mom's in Minneapolis, you're in L.A. The new audiovisual link brings the sounds, and maybe even the smells, of the faraway family kitchen to you.

* Some tables set themselves. Throw the flatware down on a tablecloth embroidered with conductive thread and watch it move around, setting itself.

* A digital nose, originally developed to help anti-drug officers sniff out cocaine in suitcases, is now put to use suggesting the proper spices for food, the perfect wine for dinner.

* Glass counter tops help make cookies, assembling the ingredients by reading electronic tags on packages, working out the recipe quantities with a computer, and then telling the microwave oven to cook.

* Refrigerators read bar codes through a scanner built into the door, access the Internet and call the grocery store to order the food you need.

* Through other advances, soup spoons offer nutritional analysis, cameras monitor simmering pots, appliances tell you they have a broken part, and lasers cut cookies.

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