Ikea Invents the Kitchen of the Future

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While most of us stopped daydreaming of hover cars and robotic dogs somewhere during the time span where the future looked a lot less like the Jetson’s version of friendly neighborhoods equipped with cool technology and more the like Matrix’s version of lots of gunfire and human bodies as an electricity source, the future (as always) still remains to be seen. The fact is, no matter how far we get into the future, there is always more future awaiting us – meaning that authors, filmmakers, inventors and others are left to consistently speculate about what is next. Among those speculating lately is furniture designer and dream maker Ikea. Only they aren’t speculating about who will invent time travel first or what fuel source we will turn to – they are imagining how we will eat, or more so, how we will cook. Now that’s a priority I can get behind…

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The ‘Kitchen of the Future’ project came together with the help of Ikea, design firm Ideo, and a group of design students from Lund University and Eindhoven University of Technology. Together, they worked toward creating a prototype kitchen for the year 2025.

Before cooking up a new kitchen, the design students spent months researching people’s attitudes regarding cooking and eating while simultaneously looking for insights as to how the world of food might change over the next decade. The result? 20 iterations of futuristic kitchens that stem from one similar idea. The idea is that the kitchen of the future will be a place where people are less wasteful as the world’s natural resources likely continue to become more strained.

As a result of this focus, one of the main concentrations for the project became a design that would help users to reduce waste. Coupled with the facts that the cost of food may go up as much as 40% in the next decade and growing awareness of water shortage, reduced waste seems like just as hot of a futuristic commodity as a Rolls Royce hover car.

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The first way the Ikea team tackled these problems from the future was with the help of visible storage. Their model kitchen was designed with shallow shelves so that you can avoid the out of sight, out of mind mentality that leaves your food moldy and on the verge of fermentation (that can’t just be me, right?). They even have a clear cooled storage shelf for items that you would normally put away in your fridge – meaning you can’t even avoid eye contact with the veggies you swore you’d eat.

In addition to visible storage, the team has included built-in composting and a smarter recycling system worthy of the Jetsons. Beneath the water-saving sink, organic waste is washed down the drain and any remaining water is squeezed out in hopes for an odorless compost bin. Nearby, an ultimate recycling gadget uses sensors to sort materials, crush and seal them for recycling, all the while keeping track of just how wasteful you’ve been (and rewarding you with energy credits if you’ve been conservative).

Arguably the coolest part of Ikea’s ‘Kitchen of the Future’ is (drumroll, please)….a smart table. Now hold on a second. I know it seems that we’ve already seen smart phones and smart watches and smart cars…how could we be impressed by a smart table? You can throw any assortment of ingredients on the table and it will recognize them and suggest a relevant recipe. A camera above the table records the chef’s every move while a projector live streams tips.  Underneath the table there are induction coils that can both heat cookware and recharge portable devices. Projected lines also mean that the table can easily serve as a cutting board and just as easily help you cut straight. Impressed? Me too.

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The mock kitchen was a part of Ikea Temporary, which opened on April 9th in Milan. Ingrid Allenbach, a Lund University student involved with the project, goes on to explain more behind the concept, saying,

“The things within your home should help you be more mindful of the food you have. We want to get people more engaged with their food – actually touching and working with their food – rather than just poking at a screen.”

2025 seems like a long ways away for the kitchen of the future, but it’s hard not to like what the future is looking like so far. Although me and Ikea don’t always see eye to eye (how could we when they speak in pictograms and make me shed blood, sweat and tears before I can reap the benefits of any of their furniture), I like their vision. However, in the next few years maybe their team could work on a robotic butler and pizza that doesn’t make my pants tighter? Just a thought…

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