SPECIAL FEATURE

The Korean Kitchen:
From Clay Stoves to Virtual Reality
SPECIAL FEATURE 5 A Glimpse of the Kitchen of the Future

The kitchen of the future will offer maximum convenience thanks to cutting-edge technologies. Cooking will require far less time and effort, and fresher food will be enjoyed with minimum cost and energy consumption. The kitchen will turn into a genuine family hub where the whole family can communicate and spend quality time together.

A smart table that combines the functions of the cooking table, stove and dining table will be used in the kitchen of the future.

For 40 years I have seen my mother move busily between the refrigerator, gas stove, sink and dinner table. But nothing in the kitchen seems to have changed much. With my wife, it’s more of the same. The kitchen has had new additions like a dishwasher and an induction cooktop, but the overall cooking time hasn’t been notably reduced. The only change is that my mother moves more slowly than before and my wife somewhat faster.
Will the kitchen be like today’s 10 or 20 years from now? No, it won’t. A phrase from “Exemplar of the Pure Mind” (Myeongsim bogam), a collection of famous quotes from ancient times, says, “First look back on the past if you want to know about the future.” Already there are clues here and there to help us envision what the kitchen of the future will look like.
The future kitchen will undergo big changes based on the latest information technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and the smart home platform.

Home appliances, including TVs and refrigerators, will produce a massive amount of data when connected to the Internet of Things, and carry out a wide range of work when embedded with artificial intelligence. The kitchen of the 21st century is not just for cooking and eating, but has multiple functions.

Three Core Technologies
Electronic home appliances can be controlled simply with voice commands if they are connected to the Internet. This is the IoT. Only computers, smart phones and tablets have been connected to the Internet so far, but many more things will go online over the next 10 years. An amazing world where even windows and mirrors, as well as refrigerators, are connected to the Internet is just around the corner.
The main point of the IoT is not the simple fact that things are connected to the Internet, but that the connected things can produce a huge amount of data. Take the refrigerator, for example. Information on the kinds and condition of groceries inside, as well as monthly wattage, will be stored as data. The data can simply be emailed or downloaded onto blogs or Facebook and used when needed.
AI helps the computer to understand and execute voice or text commands. AI-based services are quite different from those carried out following commands input via a keyboard or the click of a mouse. With AI technology, a simple voice command can control devices to obtain information and services. Currently, this only applies to a small number of devices, but many more, including kitchen appliances and even cookware, will be controlled by voice commands in the future.
Finally, the smart home platform refers to a system in which almost all home appliances are controlled by AI. This may all sound like dreams of a distant future, but actually, it will very soon become reality, considering that major smart home technologies have already been commercialized. A 3D printer that can make pizza or cheese has already been developed.

New Kitchen Design
In 1926, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, the first female Austrian architect, designed a milestone prototype of a modern kitchen called the “Frankfurt Kitchen.” Since then, the kitchen has taken on a modern look, furnished with a sink, cooking space and storage space for food and cookware.
There will be a sea change in the kitchen design that has been in place for almost a century. In the current structure, the worktop, stove and dining table are separate units. But in the not so distant future they will come together on one table. New hardware such as robotic kitchen assistants and a 3D printer will stand in a corner of the kitchen, perhaps.
A concept kitchen for 2025, produced jointly by Swedish furniture maker IKEA and American design company IDEO, indeed looks feasible.

Embedded with a camera, hidden induction coils and a display, the cooking table in the concept kitchen will automatically recognize what kinds of groceries are on it. Then it will tell you the amounts you should use and how to handle them, depending upon recipes. By following the instructions shown on the table you can cook a delicious meal with the least amount of fuss. There is no need to bustle about or keep peeping at a cookbook on the table.
The cooking table is not the only thing that will experience a big design change. The size of the refrigerator, which usually occupies the most space in the kitchen, will be reduced and the kitchen racks and shelves will have more functions. Groceries will be delivered to your home by a drone, as online shopping becomes more convenient. This eliminates the need to store groceries in the refrigerator for an extended period of time. Racks and shelves will be equipped with a temperature controller sensor and function as a refrigerator to some extent, so they will help keep food fresh.
Currently, a considerable amount of groceries go neglected and are left to rot in a corner or in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Food waste can be cut down by storing groceries on smart racks and shelves that allow you to keep track of them easily. All the better if a disposer could handle food waste immediately, and the water used for cooking and washing dishes could be separated and recycled.

In the current structure, the worktop, stove and dining table are separate units. But in the not so distant future they will come together on one table. New hardware such as robotic kitchen assistants and a 3D printer will stand in a corner of the kitchen, perhaps.

Family members will be able to enjoy more quality time together in the kitchen when it becomes a multipurpose space thanks to state-of-the-art technologies.

A Multipurpose Space
With a “home farm” equipped with an artificial solar system, you can even grow your own vegetables. Of course, many people already grow vegetables like lettuce and red peppers on the home veranda, but the home farm will increase efficiency. This suggests that the kitchen will also play the role of the veranda. In a sense, once the design and structure of the kitchen change, the whole kitchen experience will also change.
The kitchen is essentially a space for cooking and eating food. But the kitchen of the future will clearly be based on a different concept. Thanks to various technological innovations, cooking time will be significantly reduced and family members will spend more time communicating with each other over meals.
Virtual reality (VR) devices are also expected to play a part in changing the concept of the kitchen. With a pair of VR glasses, you can see a VR display of the kitchen that offers information on the groceries in the refrigerator and utensils in the drawers. Experiences such as breaking a favorite utensil and being unable to replace it because you forgot the brand name will be a thing of the past. Through VR devices, you can also check the current state of the microwave oven and the dishwasher, or check the amount of calories in food.
The smart table can function as a place to play games or as a computer for your child when it is not used for preparing food. Suppose you suddenly start discussing plans for a family trip over dinner, you can simply turn on the display and do an online search on the table rather than waiting to finish your dinner and doing a search on the phone or computer. In the future, you can watch a movie or play a game with your family on the table.
In Korea, the traditional extended family has gradually downsized to the nuclear family structure. But people are so busy these days that it’s often hard for the family to get together at home. If the kitchen of the future turns into a multipurpose space where all family members can enjoy quality time together, relationships may be restored and more conversation may take place. The kitchen of the future, brought about by technological progress, no longer belongs to wives and mothers only. It is a space for the whole family to communicate and spend time together.

Kim Jee-hyun IT Tech Writer

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