The Soylent experiment may not have revolutionised the way we eat forever, but Silicon Valley isn't content to let the kitchen go undisrupted. Meet June, a countertop device powered by carbon fibre wands that wants to make interacting with your oven more like interacting with your phone.
On paper, June sounds a lot like a high-end gadget. It has a quad-core NVIDIA K-1 processor. It has a 1080px HD camera. It is Wi-Fi connected. It has a click wheel and a touchscreen interface with custom audio design. It has its own app, along with a software algorithm that uses computer vision to identify what's inside with the onboard camera. One of its founders is a former Apple engineer who helped invent much of the technology inside your iPhone's camera, including tap-to-focus and the lock screen camera. The other was a co-founder of Zimride, now known as Lyft. The design work was done by Ammunition, the studio run by Robert Brunner, of Beats by Dre fame.
But June isn't a laptop or a smartphone -- it's an oven.
Why would you need all that extra stuff?
According to its creators, June's "smart" features make it faster, and easier, to cook for yourself. It is capable of heating to 450F (232C) in a little more than four minutes -- thanks to long, thin carbon fibre rods that heat up faster but are rarely used in non-industrial settings due to their cost. That's in addition to more conventional dual-convection tech, which speeds things up further by as much as 25 per cent. With an internal size of about 30 litres, June is small -- just 56cm wide -- and it weighs just 20kg, compared to most ovens, which weigh in at 70kg or more. Crucially, there is no stovetop, unlike the oven that's probably parked in your kitchen.
When co-founders Nikhil Bhogal and Matt Van Horn showed June to me over Skype, they slid six unbaked cookies into its small, glass-front bed and demonstrated how June's algorithm is able to identify the food and suggest cooking time and heat. We were able to watch the dough turn into cookies thanks to the onboard camera. An app pinged them to let them know when the treats were done. An internal thermometer could have been used to probe the inner temperature of the cookies, if they had been so inclined.
It was a process that would be pretty hard to screw up -- at all times, the oven has a lock on temperature (internal and external), weight, food type, appearance, and more. Thanks to the magic of the inexpensive mobile hardware, baking with June is fairly idiot proof, an easy-bake oven for tech-obsessed adults.
One big question is whether it's worth the cost. Today, June is launching in pre-orders -- you can put $US95 down towards the oven's $US1495 cost when it starts mass shipping in 2016.
That's a lot of cash for a tiny oven. The duo say that what June lacks in size -- or the presence of a stove top -- it more than makes up for in functionality. In fact, its diminutive size could be seen as a feature; The appliance is aimed at people who live in smaller apartments, where a full-size kitchen might not be an option.
As urban migration continues and micro-apartments become the norm, June wants to be the first product in an era of major home appliances that are tiny, portable, and internet-connected. "This is our bet that urban spaces will get more compact," Bhogal said. That spaces will get more compact seems like a sure thing -- whether ovens will remains to be seen.