If the thought of cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner is overwhelming, perhaps someone—or something—can talk you through it. Perhaps that something is a voice-activated appliance. The Internet of Things is making it easier for novice and seasoned cooks to whip up a praise-worthy feast.
Home cooks frequently search the web for recipes and follow cooking instructions from their phones—the largest “cookbook” to grace the kitchen counter. Devices such as Google Home Hub, Lenovo Smart Display, and KitchenAid Smart Display work with Google Assistant to respond to voice commands.
KitchenAid’s version is water-resistant and works with the Yummly cooking app. It allows users to move through a recipe at their own pace and supports digital distractions: users can interrupt their food prep to play music or watch a video and return to the recipe to take up where they left off. KitchenAid also created a voice-activated Instant Pot.
But what happens when you’re in the midst of cooking, your hands are sticky, and the recipe you are following is hidden behind your phone’s lock screen? The Food Network has you covered. Ranked second in a list of best recipe websites, The Food Network developed In The Kitchen, an app that helps cooks find and save recipes and export ingredient lists into a notes app for a future shopping trip.
The app also includes support for voice commands through Sage, its voice assistant. Sage will read step-by-step directions—and repeat or skip steps if asked—making it easy to follow the recipe, even with messy hands. It also prevents the lock screen from activating, so cooks can easily refer to the onscreen recipe without mucking up the screen.
Voice-activated Kitchen Help
Appliance companies have been integrating IoT features, such as ovens with voice-enabled temperature settings and refrigerators that can check inventory and create grocery lists. With wider availability of voice services such as Amazon Alexa, coupled with increasingly powerful and intuitive speech recognition software, the possibilities are opening for more direct—and more helpful—user interactions.
Whirlpool’s smart appliances allow users to adjust oven temperature settings by simply addressing Alexa. Some Whirlpool ovens support a scan-to-cook feature that further simplifies cooking. Using the Whirlpool app on a smartphone or tablet, users scan a product’s QR code or barcode; in some cases, a photo of the product will work, too. The app sends suggested cooking instructions directly to the Whirlpool appliance. The oven will automatically preheat to the correct temperature and set a timer to chime when it is finished cooking. Using machine learning, the app can remember your preferences. You like crispier food? The oven will remember that you prefer a longer cooking time.
IoT technologies are making professional cooking techniques easier for home cooks. For example, sous vide cooking is gaining popularity because the technique—using a water bath to cook food sealed in pouches—is pretty easy, especially with IoT-enabled devices. Anova’s Precision Cooker uses Google Home to follow voice commands. Users download an app and link the cooker to the app. It provides recipes and it can monitor, raise, and lower the water temperature, set a timer, track cooking time, and more.
Digital Sous Chef
While many devices use existing Amazon or Google voice services, Sensory has designed TrulyNatural, a speech recognition platform for home appliances. The speech processing is handled at the edge, not the cloud, so appliances don’t need a Wi-Fi component, nor do they need to be paired to a secondary app or device, such as the Amazon Echo, to execute voice commands.
Sensory claims the edge-based approach is more secure and private because commands don’t leave the device, and they are not stored. The company integrated TrulyNatural into a Midea microwave oven, which responds to requests to set a timer, start and stop cooking, cook popcorn, defrost meat, and open the door.
The integration of voice commands gives home cooks a digital sous chef that will help tackle difficult recipes and cook food to precise specifications. That kind of help is welcome at any Thanksgiving table.