No, the concept kitchen in the picture isn’t a set out of a live-action Jetsons movie: it’s an image from IKEA’s commissioned report on their plans for kitchens of 2040. Many of the gadgets leave me questioning the 30 year turn-around, but in general, I’d say we have some things to look forward to in our culinary future.
First, let’s start with the basics: What is it that we’re seeing? Here is a breakdown:
1.) Soil-free produce planter
2.) 3D food printer
3.) 3D interactive refrigerator
4.) Multi-touch tap
5.) Self-cleaning surfaces
6.) Device that shows nutritional information
7.) Remote-controlled range
8.) Retractable shelves
9.) Height-adjustable cabinets
10.) Energy management system
11.) Genetically-engineered food
12.) Roll-out chopping boards and drawers
Without a doubt, several of these gadgets are already available now (I almost laughed when I saw roll-out chopping boards and drawers). Over the past several years, engineers and industrial designers have been delivering ways to grow plants without soil, creative shelving, and systems that remind cooks when they’re running out of key ingredients. But IKEA has plans to make the kitchen (dubbed the INTUITIV) something of a living organism, responding to the user like a kitchen companion based on feedback from sensors. They envision a holographic chef helping you prepare meals, automated suggestions for breakfasts based on sensor-based nutrient information, and mood-lighting and aromatherapy that adjusts according to brainwaves and scheduled events.
You have to remember that IKEA is known primarily for their ability to deliver cost-effective solutions for consumers on a budget, and many of their designs lean toward simplicity instead of toward ground-breaking design. With that in mind, the kitchen of 2040 has enormous potential by comparison to the few innovations shown in the picture above. But, what they sometimes lack in creativity, they make up for in accessibility. If their plans come to fruition (and if my current apartment is any indication), I’ll probably be sporting an INTUITIV if you come for dinner in a few decades.