It’s a fair question. You might not think about it much, but I do.
I’ve been talking about the concept of perfect microwave popcorn since at least 1995. Heck, I wrote about it in a variety of books in the 90’s. And still, it doesn’t quite exist….
So here’s the latest October article from my CAMagazine column.
Maybe I have an obsession with this, but the concept does provide interesting ‘food for thought,’ if you pardon the pun.
Your appliances are getting smarter
By Jim Carroll
Perfect microwave popcorn. I thought by now we’d have mastered this but, for all its successes, the high-tech industry still has not figured out how to make perfect microwave popcorn.
The problem with making popcorn in a microwave is that every oven has a different power output, so all you can do is listen carefully to the popping pattern to figure out when it might be finished. There has to be a better way.
Back in the early 1990s, as the concept of Internet-based home automation started to appear, I figured there would one day be a perfect microwave popcorn machine. While on stage talking about the future, I would tell the story of perfect microwave popcorn — predicting that I’d have a device in my home that would read the bar code on the popcorn bag, query a database through the Internet, and figure out the exact timing for that particular microwave device.
Orville Redenbacher would partner with appliance manufacturers and come up with a really cool automated system that would provide perfect popcorn every time. Internet-linked appliances, back-end databases and a marriage of consumer food products to the Internet and technology. It seemed like a pretty simple idea.
Well, as far as I know, it hasn’t happened — yet.
But this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were glimmers of hope. Clearly, there were two big trends on display — tech/connectivity in the car, and tech/connectivity in the home.
A lot of the news sizzle surrounds tech in the car; the tech-in-the-home field isn’t getting as much attention, because it’s just not as exciting as wheels. But there are glimpses of what is going on: Whirlpool has announced that in 2011, it will have produced one million smart-grid-compatible clothes dryers that utilize smart connectivity to become more efficient. And imagine having a dishwasher or clothes dryer that sends you a text message when the cycle is finished — that’s going to be a regular part of our lives soon, too.
Massive pervasive interactivity on a grand and unimaginable scope will soon be upon us — and the younger generation, weaned on a diet of connectivity, will begin reshaping their world in fascinating ways. Already my 16-year-old son reminds me to stop one car length behind the normal spot at a red light — because he knows I’ll be on a pressure pad that will force an automatic green turn light.
What happens to our world when everything around us plugs in? Fascinating things, including perfect microwave popcorn. Buy the intelligent microwave, bring it home, and plug it into the wall. The microwave will use the basic Internet connectivity found in your home to establish a connection.
The package of microwave popcorn you purchased includes a bar code that uniquely identifies it. When you press “cook,” the microwave will read the bar code. It will then use the Internet connectivity to send a query to a central database. There, it will ask, in effect: “For this particular model of microwave and for this particular package of popcorn, how long is the cooking time?” Receiving the answer, it will proceed to provide you with perfect popcorn — every time.
Farfetched? I don’t think so. I believe we are destined for a future in which everyday appliances and technologies will be linked to the Internet; often through the home network or a wireless Internet connection that is set to invade your home. As this occurs, devices will emerge with capabilities that are quite unimaginable today.