Tech inventors are really 'cooking on gas'

Everybody's in the kitchen at this year's biggest high-tech party...
Written by David Becker, Contributor

Everybody's in the kitchen at this year's biggest high-tech party...

By David Becker Meet anybody at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and inevitably the first question they ask is, "So what really exciting stuff have you seen this year?" Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of the funny looks I get when I respond: "Well there was this microwave oven..." Maybe it's just a matter of bad caffeine management on my part, but it's hard for me to get worked up about a tech event where the stars are wristwatches and refrigerator magnets. But where else can you stand in a five-mile-long taxi line while watching burly guys with pliers compete for the title of the world's fastest car-stereo installer? And if you wander long enough through the cavernous bowels of the Las Vegas Convention Center (now so huge it has rickshaw drivers to transport people between buildings), you'll find a few items worthy of at least a raised eyebrow. We're serious about the oven thing: Cleveland-based start-up TMIO was showing Tonight's Menu, a device that puts the "appliance" back in "internet appliance". The device combines an oven, a refrigeration unit and an Ethernet port. Put dinner in it before you leave for work, and it will keep it cold until you connect to the oven via mobile phone or web browser and tell it to start cooking. No more interminable waiting for your minute-Masala to heat up. On a related but slightly less revolutionary note, Sears had the Toast 'N Wave, a combination toaster and microwave oven. Salton, the folks behind the George Foreman grill, also has eyes on your kitchen. Two years after introducing and promptly withdrawing the ePod, one of umpteen internet appliances that failed to set the world alight, the company is giving the kitchen PC another try with the Icebox. The Windows CE-based device combines a TV, an FM radio, a DVD and CD player and PC functions such as web browsing. Coolest of all, it has a sealed wireless keyboard which you can run under the tap when it gets dirty. Salton spokesman Robert Lamson said the company applied a number of lessons from the ePod. "What we learned is it's very important to do a lot of consumer research before you start doing a design," he said. "If you listen to people, they'll tell you what kind of things they want to do in the kitchen. That's what we tried to build into the Icebox." The Icebox will be the first of the Beyond line of kitchen appliances Salton will sell under the Westinghouse brand. Future items include networkable, programmable coffee makers, bread machines and microwave ovens. David Becker writes for News.com
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