15029 Mon, 08/11/2008 - 12:12pm
By Andrea Lillo
NEW YORK–The sounds of sauteing and simmering will be joined by beeps and clicks as the technology that has so enveloped other parts of the house finally heads to the kitchen.
Several manufacturers have released their versions of consumer electronics for this room, each offering something different but all looking to bring technology and convenience to the cook’s fingertips.
“The kitchen is the most social place of the home, yet technology has not followed in there as it did in the family room,” said Dean Finnegan, chief executive officer, Pandigital. This is possibly due to high price points, he added, which have since come down.
Pandigital’s Kitchen Technology Center combines an HDTV, digital cookbook, digital photo frame and wireless Internet device into one product for $399, and is scheduled to be in stores in September. With the Kitchen Technology Center, consumers can watch TV or photos; get RSS feeds on the weather or news in their kitchen; and access recipes on a 15.6-inch screen, the largest it could be to allow it to be folded under the counter top, Finnegan said.
The product will have one or two cookbooks pre-loaded onto it, plus the consumer can add her own recipes. In addition, the company will soon announce partnerships with both a celebrity chef and a major cookbook publisher. For next year, Finnegan said a 19-inch version will be launched in the first quarter.
Known for its digital photo frames, Pandigital’s plan is always the same—taking electronics and making it accessible to the female consumer, Finnegan said. “We moved digital frames outside of consumer electronics,” he said, and the Kitchen Technology Center “is a housewares product.”
MiBook was inspired by frustration with traditional cookbooks, said Bruce Teicher, CEO of Photoco. He went through several cookbooks trying to figure out how to make a roux, which is central to Cajun cooking. “You’re lucky if you get one picture of the final dish,” he said. In addition, cooking shows “are designed more for entertaining” than for cooking along. So Photoco “combined the best of print with the best of media” to launch the miBook.
A portable 7-inch-screen device retailing for $129.99, the miBook works when the consumer plugs in the card of one of the company’s cookbook titles ($19.99 each), which uses video to show how a dish is created. “It makes cooking simpler, easier and fun,” Teicher said. “You should be able to have more than words to guide you in the kitchen.” Something simple as mincing garlic, he said, can be viewed step by step on the miBook, which one can pause to allow time to complete each step.
Right now, there are nine cookbook cards available, such as Quick & Easy Meals, Healthy Cooking for Kids and Irresistible Desserts, and the company continues to produce more, Teicher said. One of its features is that the cook can sort through the recipes by using such criteria as what main ingredient she wants to use, what method of cooking, and in how much time. Due to its relationship with The Food Network, the cookbooks will include many recipes seen on that channel as well, he said. When not in use, the miBook can be used as a digital photo frame.
Though cooking will be miBook’s first application, it can be used for much more, Teicher said. The company is planning for titles in such areas as home repair, decorating, gardening, parenting, pregnancy and travel, and on its Web site it can even offer consumers downloads for recipes or public service announcements.
The Ikan is designed to help consumers with their food shopping by preparing the grocery list. With its built-in scanner, the Ikan appliance can be placed under a cabinet or on the wall near the trash can, allowing consumers to scan the bar codes of empty containers as they are being thrown out. Each item will be added to a virtual shopping list on the consumer’s online Ikan account, and, if it can be recycled, the Ikan will notify the consumer as well. Once the consumer is ready to order groceries, she can review the list on Ikan’s Web site, add non-bar-coded products such as bananas, and then submit it to a supermarket retailer that delivers or print out the list herself.
Right now the company is working with about seven supermarket chains and more will be added soon, said Fabio Zsigmond, co-owner. It’s only available in certain metropolitan areas of the country such as New York, Boston, Washington and Chicago. The unit retails for $400, though Zsigmond said that $99 units are sometimes available during special retailer promotions.
Hamilton Beach, the kitchen-electrics arm of NACCO Industries, along with its licensing agency, Brand Sense Partners, are also looking to bring kitchen-oriented consumer electronics, such as a digital recipe reader, to the marketplace.
Key Ingredient recently introduced a digital recipe reader at the Gourmet Housewares Show called the Demy. For fall release, the Demy is powered by keyingredient.com, where consumers can find, create, share and collect recipes, and download them to the Demy. Consumers will also be able to scan and transcribe most hard-copy recipes onto the Web site in digital form. With a 7-inch monitor, it will retail for $499.