Citizens: I have been to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and I have seen the future of food. In the future, we will BBQ with sunlight, make meat bags in a bucket, time our bite-chew-eat speed with an obsessive spoon, and watch the contents of our refrigerators slowly age. In the future of food, I gained 45 pounds. I lost 45 pounds. I (almost) met Oprah and Madonna. And I learned new ways to make coffee, brew beer, and toast toast.
Here is what I saw.
3. In the future, you can drink latte selfies.
Ripples is a strange, charming countertop device that 3D-prints custom images onto milk-frothed lattes using a thin layer of coffee-based extract. The new Ripples app allows anyone to choose images (dachshunds, the Eiffel Tower, cowboy boots, other signposts of this great, strange planet) or upload their own. Obviously, selfies are gong to be big draws. Coffee shops could also print branded content like a sports team logo, or a personalized message.
I spoke with Mark Baird, an expert barista at the Ripples booth. “This is the barista’s ticket to freedom, all done through the interface of the ripple,” he said. Automatic latte art might mean less work, but he warned, “all the barista art training will go down the drain.”
5. In the future, you can spy on your food with this thing.
Smarter’s Fridge Cam doesn’t look like much, probably because it doesn’t have much to look at (the inside of your fridge). It takes a photo of the fridge’s contents every time you close the door. You can check the photos via an app whenever you would like to know how your lettuce is doing.
Sounds dumb, perhaps, but maybe the Fridge Cam is more than a useful device for the lazy and forgetful. Maybe it’s really a window to the soul, revealing the scary, moldy bits hidden deep inside all of us (and our refrigerators).
6. In the future, this little machine will brew beer for you at home.
The PicoBrew works on a Keurig-style system, selling ready-made “PicoPaks” of hops and grain. All you have to do is insert the pack, attach a keg of water, set the controls, brew the beer, and then wait a week or so for it to ferment.
7. In the future, you’ll cook fancy meat in a bucket of water.
Anova is a precision cooker that uses the sous vide (French for “under vacuum”) cooking method — which, to be fair, has been around for a long time, and the Anova wasn’t even necessarily the sleekest of the sous vide gizmos at CES. But Michael Tankenoff, a business developer who was demoing the cooker, told me he’s confident that “this is going to change the way you cook, and completely democratizing this style of cooking.”
The process is pretty simple. Put your food in a Ziploc bag, submerge the bag into a container full of water, clip the cooker to the edge, and set the controls and timer. Anova works by regulating the temperature of the water bath, meaning that the food (usually meats) are cooked evenly and retain all their moisture. Meals can take a few hours, so the device is Wi-Fi–enabled to allow users to turn on or off their steak bucket whenever they like.
10. Not to mention a (sort of) new breakfast machine.
Steve also showed me the forthcoming Breakfast Hub — a combination griddle, toaster oven, and coffee maker. I asked him if there were comparable products already on the market. “More or less,” he said, “but this one has a lid and it’s cheaper.”
He was right. I googled three-in-one breakfast makers and found a dozen others, equally small and almost as cheap. There’s even a Hello Kitty one that ups the cuteness score. Another has extra-wide bagel slots. But after all the hype at CES, I was honestly grateful to see something small and cheap and useful that I would happily spend $35 on.
11. INTERMISSION: In the middle of all these exciting discoveries, I stumbled upon celebrity diet guru Deepak Chopra.
The king of self-realization and inspirational quotes was talking about “super genes” and “optimum health,” but all I was thinking about was all the famous people he knows. This is the guy who meditated with Oprah and levitated on Michael Jackson’s bed (see below). And let us never forget the New Age-y CD he made in the late ’90s with the least likely combination of people ever, including Madonna, Rosa Parks, and Martin Sheen.
13. And Deepak Chopra inspired me to check up on my health.
I tried out Intel’s body measurement scanner, where an audience was eager to find out my BMI and waist-to-hip ratio.
When the screen lit up, an unhappy face indicated that I weighed 175 pounds. Apparently, I had gained 45 pounds and didn’t notice anything. The rep said there was an error. I knew it was wrong but, still, I felt bad an emoticon called me obese.
14. So I decided to start counting my calories with the most neurotic spoon ever.
Spün utensils utilize a scale, an app, and a timer to track the calories and nutrition of every bite you eat. These utensils are complicated devices.
You begin by entering your meal into an accompanying Fitness Pal–style app. First, it charts out what you are eating by mapping out the layout of your plate. Then the handle detects the weight of each and every bite. And finally it times exactly how many seconds you take to put that bite of food in your mouth. If you eat too fast (usually less than five-second intervals between bites), the app will harass you with alarms. Fun!
15. And lo and behold, I instantly lost 45 pounds.
InBody’s scale weighed said I weighed 125.8 pounds, fully clothed. Juan Lin Ng was manning the booth and helped me use the machine. She promised me that, unlike other scales, InBody can detect “skinnyfat.” “You might look thin and have low body weight,” she said, “but it all might be fat.”
Juan Lin read my results. I was not skinnyfat. In fact, I was composed of 125.8 pounds of material: 44.5 pounds of intracellular water, 26.5 pounds of extracellular water, 26.2 pounds of dry lean mass, and 28.7 pounds of body fat.
The numbers were meaningless. It was kind of like spending money in a foreign currency. Five hundred yen for a beer? Two pounds for a candy bar? Twenty-six and a half pounds of extracellular water? Whatever. I didn’t feel skinny or fat, just full of numbers.
17. With the question of my weight settled, I returned to the future of food, specifically solar-powered cooking.
And I discovered that eventually we will all cook in vacuum tubes. The GoSun Grill uses a vacuum-sealed cooking cylinder powered by energy collected from solar panels. It even works at night or on cloudy days. Not exactly portable enough for camping, but it could be a cleaner, less smoky alternative to BBQ-ing.
18. Almost last, but not least, there was the LG Signature “knock-on” refrigerator.
It’s easy to mock a knock-knock refrigerator, but two of the new features are surprisingly cool. You can trigger a motion detector sensor at the base of the refrigerator to open the right door automatically and hands-free. Knocking on the right door also works to illuminate the interior.
The LG sales rep explained that the knock feature saved energy by reducing the time we spend rummaging around the refrigerator with the doors open. That made sense UNTIL I realized that the double doors stack all your food and drinks on top of one another. The transparent glass flattens the topography of the refrigerator contents, so you can’t see your leftovers through the wine bottles or artichokes. Maybe it’s just one of those new, faddish irresistible things. Everyone wants to be the first to get a knock-knock refrigerator, right?
19. That fridge was competing for domination of the future against the Samsung Family Hub.
The Family Hub refrigerator exhibit was very crowded and the thing was so complicated that I’m relying on Samsung’s website to explain. Apparently, the Family Hub will “transform your kitchen with a revolutionary refrigerator featuring a Wi-Fi touchscreen.”
The fridge will generate shopping lists and order groceries on its own, stream TV, and spy on itself with three built-in cameras. You can access recent photos from inside the fridge with an app that doubles as a time stamper – checking both how much and how old everything is in your refrigerator. Great?
20. With that final glimpse into the future, I called it a day.
True, some of these things seem hokey or janky or overwrought. At the end of the day, I don’t want my spoon to harass me or my refrigerator to show me its insides. Perhaps I didn’t need to know my lean body mass or to drink a latte decorated with my stuffed tiger’s face.
But need and want are different things. And if this is the future of food, I can’t wait to be alive.
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