The connected home was a fantasy just a decade ago. A home that can respond to your demands and adjust to your preferences sounds more like the premise of an awesome “Twilight Zone” episode. But with the introduction of smart technology into everyday appliances, the completely connected home is now a reality.

Products like Nest, which allow users to control their thermostat via their mobile phone, and other smart technology, such as the Cinder Sensing Cooker, a skillet which uses smart sensors to adjust cooking temperature based on the food and desired result (such as rare versus medium rare), the connected home is ushering in a new era of convenience for homeowners.

But that’s the problem that we at Digital Telepathy have with the most recent generation of smart products for the home, they are simply that: convenient. Yes, it’s great to be able to turn off lights, control the temperature of your house, and even lock and unlock doors from your mobile phone, but it is certainly not going to change your life. Much of the connected home technology has come in the form of gadgets. We haven’t really seen successful integration with larger appliances or truly compelling use cases. Yet.

The Smart Stove

We have an in-house innovation team here working to apply our design practice to everyday problems and improve the lives of more people — redesigning life’s experiences, not just digital interfaces. The team turned their attention to the connected home and one of the most ubiquitous experiences in the world: cooking. We examined the possibilities of designing a smart microwave or even a smart refrigerator, but we didn’t feel that those concepts would create enough impact for the end user. After some careful deliberation, we decided to design a stove worthy of Jane Jetson, instead of June Cleaver.

In 2013, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that just 44 percent of households cooked dinner 2 to 5 times a week. This made us think, improving upon the stove’s technology for the everyday cook would ultimately help people cook better food. Instead of simply making a stove more convenient (like turning on your oven from your phone…come on, that’s too easy), we set out to overhaul the entire cooking experience and make it easier and more fun for everyone.

The Research

To get started, we conducted a thorough investigation into today’s stove technology, examining what is available currently for the average consumer and what is truly missing. We talked to regular Joes who cook at home, and some professional chefs, too, to discover what one experiences when they cook.

User sentiment graph of the cooking process.

When looking at the user journey for cooking, there were opportunities for improvement. While the prep and cooking experiences may be better than shopping, actually following the recipe (especially with modifications) can be a daunting task. It seemed so easy online, but when you compare your finished product with the photo, it looks nothing like it should.

Been there before? Us too. That is why we asked ourselves, “How can we make preparing and cooking a good meal nearly foolproof?”

Our innovation team explored a variety of materials and interfaces early on in the design process.

Creating The Concept

Once we identified the friction within the cooking experience, and heard from users about their own personal experiences, we decided we would design our Smart Stove features around three stages: Recipe exploration, preparation and cooking.

Whiteboard sketches were diagrammed with greater fidelity to allow the ideas to marinate.

We set out to design a Smart Stove that was a completely realistic concept, something that could easily be integrated into the today’s kitchen. Our innovation team spent weeks brainstorming features, whiteboarding ideas, and vetting through user interviews to come up with the features of the stove. Staying true to the goal of completely achievable technology, we also brought in engineers to discuss if what we envisioned could really be brought to life.

With features in mind, we created wireframes and sketches for the stove to be sure that the function and design was seamless and consistent.

From choosing recipes and preparing ingredients, to physically cooking your meal, the Smart Stove completely changes the way we find recipes, prepare and cook our meals.

A Smarter Way to Cook

More than just a heating source, our Smart Stove is equipped with an interactive UI that provides step-by-step navigation through a recipe to create a delicious meal from start to finish.

Exploring Recipes:

The stove top interface means you can keep your mobile device safely in your pocket.

The Smart Stove would make it easier for people to choose recipes with a recipe database. It pulls thousands of recipes from your favorite apps, such as, Gojee, Allrecipes.com, Martha Stewart’s extensive recipe lists, or Bonappetit.com. Using its giant 29-inch touchscreen, you’ll be able to easily browse based on meal, ingredient preferences, price, nutrition facts and more, all with just a little tap of the UI screen. Over time, it will learn your preferences and serve up recommended recipes a la Netflix. We feel confident that using this UI will help remove the friction that many would-be chefs face as they search tirelessly from their iPhones, trying to avoid dropping their precious phone into their concoctions, or ransack their grandmother’s tired recipe box, trying to decipher her old-timey cursive script.

Preparation:

Integrated scales allow you to measure food precisely.

Imagine if your stove could lead you through meal preparation step-by-step. With your list of ingredients displayed, your stove’s built in sensors detect the tare weight of each component to be sure that you have enough. Personal preference overrides automatically adjust for spice level and supply ingredient substitutions. Need a little handholding? Tutorial videos are available to show you each step of the meal—and it’s all at your fingertips, right there on your stove. If you have company and need to cook for more people than you’re used to, the stove can adjust the recipe portions to accommodate more servings (because, let’s face it: Tripling a recipe with 15 different ingredients is just asking for trouble). 

Cooking:

The GPS of cooking—the smart stove provides turn-by-turn directions for the kitchen.

Cooking a meal with lots of ingredients can be intimidating, but the Smart Stove makes it easy. Once your ingredients are prepared and weighed for accuracy, your stove will provide step-by-step navigation through the recipe, with instructions and prompts for the next steps. Think of it like GPS directions. The stove helps orchestrate your recipe to be sure that each component of your meal is perfectly timed. Since the stove and recipe talk to each other, your stove knows exactly how hot your burners should be for each dish. Distracted while cooking? The stove will note the inactivity and adjust temperatures so you don’t accidentally burn your food.

The Future of Cooking

The best part is: all of the individual pieces of technology we played with to conceptualize the Smart Stove already exist today. It’s just a matter of bringing it all together—and that is the exciting part about this project: Everything you have read is plausible and could be in your kitchen this decade. Think about it: This could be the future of cooking, the technology that catapults our kitchens into a new era.

We will be examining the world around us and taking on more redesigned concepts, like the Smart Stove. We hope to make an impact on the way people live by applying our UX expertise to the world around us.

Is this concept interesting to you? We’d love to talk.

Comments
  • asif

    I think this is interesting and seems like a cool concept.

    I’m curious about the part of the ideation that included focusing on exploration in the cooking experience, which seems to be the highlighted critical point. Specifically, in cases I have seen, people do not like to have to buy so many different ingredients and only use them for one or two meals, they’re looking for more multi-purpose ingredients when shopping so they don’t need to purchase many special-purpose ingredients at one time. And in cases they want to go by a recipe with more diverse ingredients, things like Blue Apron swoop in or a person may not prefer that either, lean back on to their laurels, and continue to not cook too often.

    Any-who, I am just curious as to how you all took additional exploration aspects into consideration and came to the recipe curator. Thanks

    • Dan Trenkner

      Totally! Having a dish with 17 ingredients is definitely a barrier due to the fact that they are probably missing a few ingredients as well as the sheer intimidation of using that many ingredients. The idea behind the recipe cards is to surface the needed ingredients (it would have to be integrated with an inventory system which we elude to but did not design) and quickly show what is needed. With the favoriting and filter options users should be able to quickly find recipes that appeal to them.

  • Jesse Wood

    Wow, this is fun and unexpected! I wonder who your personas were on this project?

    So the first things that come to mind for me (as someone who cooks 90% of his meals) are: The weight measurements being partitioned into categories rather that exact amounts for ingredients. Like “Light”, “Moderate”, “Strong” for this recipe, since following recipes exactly can be very overwhelming to people who don’t feel comfortable. And the beauty of a smart heating element is that it could increase your cooking times as you add more ingredients to the pot.

    Second, the single best thing you could add to a smart stove in my opinion is a pot that stirs itself like with magnetic ball bearings, or an automated lid.

    Third, you mentioned finding recipes based on meals, or ingredient preferences but chances are if someone’s already at their stove they’d like to cook with what’s already in their kitchen. A companion app, like a household grocery list keeper would solve this problem by keeping track of what you have handy and what you most often keep an abundance of. The biggest barrier to using something like that is the data entry involved in spur of the moment purchases while you’re at the store but that could be solved by a bar code scanner maybe and simple voice commands (that could also be used while someone is putting away those groceries).

  • Jesse Wood

    I came across this post today and it reminded me of your project!
    http://www.bizreport.com/2015/06/mobile-a-key-ingredient-in-a-millennials-kitchen.html

    I think the implications would be interesting since mcgarrybrown’s research shows that people are not just turning to their mobile devices as cooking companions but also that they see it as an experience to be shared rather than as a chore.

    This research would of course confirm what that stove is already working towards but you guys know better than to just do that
    https://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/design/prove-yourself-wrong-the-secret-to-great-ux

    But it also provides some more interesting feedback for a stove like yours because people are generally much more loss averse (losing time and energy to a chore is a type of loss) than they are pleasure seeking…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/09/your-money/overcoming-an-aversion-to-loss.html?_r=0

    • Dan Trenkner

      Thanks for sharing! Incorporating content as cooking companions such as videos (whether it is an entire recipe walk-through or a simple how-to for chopping garlic) would definitely improve the overall experience and we give a nod to it with video icons scattered through the UI. Keeping the content on the touch surface lets the user keep their phone clean and in their pocket. The social side to this project is limitless but for the iteration we focused on the cooking experience!