At last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Alexa was showing up in all sorts of devices. Ahead of CES 2018, Amazon’s voice assistant is prepping to do more in your kitchen by adding voice control to your microwave. As part of an expanded Smart Home Skills API, developers will be able to integrate microwave-centric voice commands into devices.
Some of the examples Amazon gives in its developer blog include, “Alexa, defrost three pounds of chicken,” and “Alexa, microwave for 50 seconds on high.” If your microwave has a much-used preset, you will be able to turn it on with a voice command, too. Manufacturers such as General Electric have already made some wall ovens compatible with Alexa. While being able to ask it to set your oven to 350 degrees while your hands are messy is convenient, being able to say, “Alexa, set the microwave to 80 percent power for three minutes” means fewer buttons to press. However, this isn’t something we would necessarily want to do from the other room, because if Alexa mishears us and cooks our Bagel Bites for 30 minutes, no one is going to be happy. (Honestly, though, don’t put your Bagel Bites in the microwave. Only an oven or toaster oven will give them that desired crispiness.)
According to Amazon, Whirlpool plans to have the skill ready for its connected microwaves soon, and GE Appliances, Kenmore, LG, and Samsung are all beefing up their Alexa cooking skills as well.
Meanwhile, the June Oven now works via voice control, thanks to its custom Alexa skill. The countertop and built-in versions of the smart oven uses cameras to identify what food you’re making (it can differentiate about 25 at the moment) and set the cooking parameters accordingly. For foods it can’t peg, presumably you will be able to ask Alexa to relay the information to June, and it will use its sensors and machine learning to take care of the rest. Again, we would want to ensure — even with June’s cameras — that our Echo heard “apple pie” and not “rib-eye.”
Many manufacturers start off weary of smart control for ovens, for fear that people would start preheating while away from home, forgetting they left a sweater in there. Many still require you to push a button before you can control the oven with your phone. Since running an empty microwave isn’t a great idea, we will likely see similar safeguards when voice control comes to the appliances. Amazon says it will be up to the manufacturer whether to enable remote-start functionality.