January 7, 2005 9:21 AM PST
Baking by bar code
The Seattle-based company, best known for bringing to market such iconic devices as the George Foreman Grill and the Juiceman, unveiled its lineup of new home appliances at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Unlike those aforementioned stars of late-night infomercial fame, the company's latest inventions are more notable for their level of IT innovation than their simplicity.
Among the products Salton plans to begin selling by the second quarter are coffee makers, microwave ovens and bread-making machines, all of which have built-in networking capabilities for communicating with one another and other devices in the home. The company also introduced a PC-like entertainment device designed specifically for use in the kitchen, and a wireless "hub" machine that can be used to manage all of the networked appliances.
Perhaps the most forward-thinking, yet eccentric, gadget in the bunch is Salton's Beyond Bread Maker and Beyond Microwave, both of which offer not only Internet connectivity and storage space for recipes, but also the capability to cook via bar code.
With the bread maker, after the "chef" adds the ingredients and scans the bar code on any of several bread and cake mixes, the machine promises to prepare the selected foodstuff correctly. Bearing a price tag of $150, the bread maker comes preloaded with more than 100 recipes set to launch when a carbohydrate connoisseur scans in the corresponding Universal Product Code. When used with Salton's home hub, the device can access an information network that contains additional bar codes and recipes.
The microwave comes preloaded with cooking instructions for 4,000 boxed foods. It also has a "learn" function so that users can create and store directions to go with new bar codes. It costs $150.
Salton's Icebox kitchen entertainment center also offers an array of unique characteristics. The PC-like device features standard functions such as Web connectivity, a television, radio, and a DVD and CD player, in addition to some more forward-thinking design elements, such as a wireless keyboard that can be washed under the kitchen faucet and a touch screen monitor that can be wiped clean with a sponge. The device comes in models designed to be mounted under kitchen cabinets or directly to countertops. It retails for just under $2,300.
Building a kitchen of the future that capitalizes on the latest networking and functional advances is not a new idea; major IT vendors and appliance manufacturers have for years showcased devices that straddle the traditional lines between PCs and more traditional home electronics. In one case, the Internet Home Alliance, which counts tech behemoths such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM among its contributors, created a kitchen that featured everything from an Internet-enabled refrigerator made by Whirlpool to automated grocery-ordering services managed by Peapod.