For the last few years, consumer technology conferences like CES have shown countless examples of appliances that promised to turn your kitchen into a futuristic playground. You'd never have to worry about running low on milk or having all the ingredients for your favorite meal, because your refrigerator would give you the lowdown. Cooking dinner wouldn't take as long, because your oven would begin to preheat the moment you arrive home. Everything would be seamless, easy and convenient.
Despite the promises, we haven't seen the smart kitchen really take off. Maybe it's because technology can take time to mature, and the early implementations, while interesting, weren't necessarily solving a problem. Or maybe it's because most of us don't have the need or money to scrap all our major kitchen appliances and replace them with gadgets that could score higher on the SATs than we did.
But it's possible that we're on the brink of a new era in kitchen technology where the devices are more robust, useful and interesting. Eventually, all appliances in the store will fall under the smart technology label.
While at CES 2016, the HowStuffWorks crew had a chance to take a look at some smart kitchen tech that could be the next big thing. At Samsung we saw a refrigerator with an impressive 21.5-inch (55-centimeter) capacitive touch screen. This fridge doesn't just keep track of the stuff you store in it — it can also become an entertainment center. You could even listen to HowStuffWorks podcasts from your fridge!
Beyond that, there's a camera inside the refrigerator door that allows you to peek into the appliance even if you're not home. Just open the app to view your fridge's interior when you're at the grocery store and can't remember what food you need. Plus, you'll be able to see what goes on inside your fridge when the door is closed. We hope someone finally confirms the presence of fridge gnomes.
We also stopped by Whirlpool to get a look at the kitchen of the future. Whirlpool's concept has an integrated kitchen that can sense what you're doing and provide reminders as you work. For example, if you're a parent making breakfast, it might remind you to pack a lunch for your children and provide suggestions for healthy meals.
Will these technologies gain wide acceptance among consumers? As people feel the need to upgrade or buy new appliances, it's natural to take a look at what is cutting edge and weigh the product's features against budget. It may be another five or six years before smart tech finds its way into the average kitchen, but based on what we saw, it's a future that is definitely near.