While we are just imagining and visualizing what the future of food might be like, IKEA went ahead and actually built it.
The Concept Kitchen 2025, a pop-up exhibit featured at EXPO Milano 2015, isn’t about your kitchen and its appliances doing all the work for you; it’s about helping you make thoughtful decisions about food and waste.
The kitchen was developed with IDEO London, a global design firm, and college students focused on “the social, technological, and demographic forces that will impact how we behave around food in 2025.”
What Is It?
Concept Kitchen 2025 is a student project based upon a list of apparitions about the world ten years from now. The students theorized a world of dwindling resources with much less energy available than today, and an aging population with fewer children. It’s a world where people mostly live in cities in very small flats; where the kitchen is also the living room and work space; where food, especially meat, is scarce; and where recycling is strongly encouraged, even enforced. It’s also one where most people work from home; groceries are delivered immediately on demand and where computers are omnipresent, yet almost invisible.
The Tech Story
The first imagine that flashes in our heads on hearing ‘future kitchen’ is robots hovering about. But the technology behind the concept kitchen endeavors to remain in the background and avoids the stereotypical laboratory-like future kitchens of the 1950s and ’60s. Instead, it looks more like a typical Ikea starter kitchen, though with a few high-tech additions cunningly hidden as it works to create more confident cooks who waste less.
The Smart Table
Above the table is a smart camera and projector that acts as an interactive control center. Place food on the table and the camera will identify it and project suggestions for dishes to use it, recipes, and a timer. Adjusting the timer for time available for preparation filters the recipes. Meanwhile, under the wood surface of the table are induction coils connected to computer networks that can heat cookware and recharge portable devices.
Shelving It Right
Another feature of the Concept Kitchen is the storage unit, which also looks like something out of an Ikea starter set. This is based on the idea that by 2025 weekly shopping will be a thing of the past and groceries can be delivered within minutes of placing an order.
So instead of fridges and cupboards, the Concept Kitchen storage system uses open shelves in a pegboard arrangement that looks somewhat like a market stall.
What? Just simple shelves?
They may seem low tech, but the wooden shelves contain hidden sensors and smart induction cooling technology while perishable foods are immediately visible, which promotes their use instead of being forgotten at the back of the fridge.
Food is stored in double-walled transparent containers with tags indicating the temperature they should be stored at. The induction cooling units use magnetic, stainless steel-gadolinium alloy bases in the shelves to keep the containers at the proper temperature. The same containers can be used for heating on the table. There’s also low-tech terracotta containers for foods like garlic, potatoes, and carrots.
After dinner, the Thoughtful Disposal system takes over, with the householder manually sorting recycling from rubbish in a sort of home bottle bank. These are then crushed, vacuum-packed into a bio-polymer tube, and labeled for pick-up after which the householder is either credited or fined, depending on how wasteful the rubbish to recycling balance is. Woah! We better pay attention to our garbage in the future!
To further cut down on waste, the kitchen sink empties into a composting system where the water is removed and the solids are compressed into an odorless puck, which is collected by the local government. The water is used for indoor plants. Water not suitable for plants is sent into municipal sewage pipes.
Impressed yet? Here’s a quick look at the smart table that does pretty much all the work on its own. Get ready to be amazed!