In September, owners of GE smart ovens got a surprise: They could suddenly enable a skill on their Amazon Echo or other Alexa-ready products and start using their voices to control their appliances. That’s the beauty of a smart product: Manufacturers can deliver updates that actually make the product better. (They can also stop supporting and brick some devices, but that’s a tale for another day.) Though it’s been making smart appliances for a while now, Whirlpool announced its biggest lineup yet at CES 2017 : 20 models — including fridges, dishwashers, wall ovens, ranges, and microwaves — will be Wi-Fi-enabled. Voice-activation will also be standard.
That means you’ll be able to ask the oven to preheat to 350 degrees without touching any knobs and — presumably — ask the dishwasher how much time is left in the cycle. Whirlpool doesn’t seem to be touting these features as groundbreaking or must-have; instead, the message seems to be, “Why not make these appliances smart? We can do that and roll out cool features when they’re ready.”
One of those features is what Jason Mathew, senior director of global connected strategy at Whirlpool, describes as Scan-to-Cook. In the future, you’ll be able to take a picture of your frozen pizza or scan its barcode, and your oven will respond by starting to heat up to the right temperature. Though Scan-to-Cook is entirely Whirlpool’s technology, it’s easy to see how it might fit in with its partnership with Innit, a company that wants to digitize food to enable these types of interactions between meal and machine.
Even when you’re not using your voice or your phone’s camera, some models of oven or range will have a learning touchscreen. The first time you turn on the LCD screen, it will have a standard look, but the more you use it, the more customized to you and your habits it becomes. For example, if you always pull your cookies out of the oven at the early end of the recommended range because you like them chewy, it will always adjust its time accordingly.
Whirlpool hasn’t yet given details on pricing for these connected products, but it sounds like it’s looking to deliver the functionality across its offerings, from budget to luxury models.
Updated 1/5/2017: Updated to clarify Scan-to-Cook technology is not part of Whirlpool’s partnership with Innit.