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Archive for May, 2015

It’s long been suspected that human illnesses give off an odor, one that can be detected by some cats and dogs.  Training our pets to be on the lookout for these early warning signs so that they could alert us to them is a great idea.  It’s also an expensive endeavor that’s far from full proof and leaves much to be desired when you consider one very key point: not everyone has a pet.  A better, more efficient method would be to create a technological solution.  One that would enable us to detect illnesses when they first form without having to lift a finger.  Thankfully, that approach may soon be a reality thanks to a newly created Digital Nose.

So how does this amazing new technology work?

According to CNN, “The sensor, which is no bigger than a dime, works by creating a spectrum of what chemicals are in the air. It then identifies each chemical’s unique make-up. If the sensor is set and calibrated to a certain level, it will trigger an alarm.”

So how does this tie in with food?  It is food week after all.  Well, as any good chef knows, our sense of smell is a huge part of our ability to cook.  Without it we wouldn’t know if foods are still fresh or when our meals are ready to eat.  Therefore, digitally enhancing that sense could be very useful in the kitchen.  Which is exactly what the Digital Nose could wind up doing.

As CNN explains, “Eventually the sensor could become a part of many everyday appliances, alerting consumers to which foods are going bad in the fridge or even the optimum moment to take the roast out of the oven.”

As this technology continues to improve and the senor continues to shrink I could see it getting incorporated into an already existing technology such as a smart phone or smart watch so that you don’t have to worry about carrying around a separate digital nose in your back pocket.  Because the last question you want to get on a first date is someone asking you why you’re carrying around an extra nose.

Is a Digital Nose the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you’re ever bored, and I mean, really, really, really bored do a Google search for “Craig watching popcorn pop”.  It’s a video that a former roommate of mine filmed and it depicts pretty much what the title indicates.   Three minutes of me starring at the microwave.  It’s downright riveting if you ask me.  Completely absurd if you ask anyone else.

The reason why I bring this up is because soon the entire internet may be flooded with similar videos of people starring at their microwaves.  For we may be on the verge of getting predator style heat map microwaves that don’t just count down to when your food is ready but also show you what’s really going on beneath the surface.  It’s sure to be the coolest thing to happen to the kitchen since the advent of the turkey baster.

As CNET reports, “The microwave is too often a chamber of mystery. You throw something cold inside, take a guess at the amount of time it will take to warm it up to the perfect temperature, press “start” and hope for the best. The process then usually involves a lot of poking, stirring and restarts.”

All that’s about to change though thanks to inventor Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer.  Thanks to his new invention we’ll soon have a process capable of knowing exactly when food is ready to come out of the microwave based on its temperature.  No more blind guesses.  And more importantly no more hovering over the microwave watching your food like a hawk while worrying if the radiation from the microwave is giving you cancer.

Now if only we could invent a way to clean the microwave automatically after a hot pocket explodes we’ll be all set.

 

Is a Heat Map Microwave the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Currently if you want to tell if a piece of food has spoiled before you eat it you give it the old smell test.  But what if you wanted to test something that seemingly appears to be edible but really isn’t?  You know, the kind of thing that might lead to an unsuspecting person winding up with food poisoning.  What recourse do you have?  Right now, nothing.  But, in the near future we may have a gadget capable of conducting a quick diagnosis test that will indicate whether or not a piece of food is safe.  In essence, a food safety device that works as quickly as a home pregnancy test.  One line means it’s safe.  Two lines means it’s not.

Created by a startup known as Invisible Sentinel, this new food safety device may not be practical for most consumers to use but it would be real game changer for food manufacturers as it will significantly cut down on the amount of food that goes to waste while waiting for current testing methods to clear items.  It will also decrease the chances of ever needing to utilize a food recall considering how accurate it is.

As Fast Company describes, “That accuracy could also help prevent even more food waste—if there’s a false food safety scare, food often ends up in the trash.  In 2008, there was a warning of salmonella in tomatoes that later turned out to be false. So many people stopped buying tomatoes that 32% of the total crop in the U.S. went unharvested.”

With this new device food will never go to waste on that grand a scale ever again.  Considering the challenges we’re going to be facing in the future to feed the billions of people on this planet that’s a pretty significant development.

According to Fast Company the device is already in use, “with a wide range of foods, including meat, vegetables, and even candy.”

But that’s not all.  “It can also be used for different applications, like testing the quality of beer or wine…”

Having the ability to test the quality of alcoholic beverages is something that actually might come in handy.  Just the other day a friend of mine and his buddies all got hammered from a pitcher of Heineken without even drinking enough get buzzed.  Obviously the beer was watered down or mixed with something else or spiked with something in a ploy by the bar to turn a profit through false advertising and impaired judgments.  If that beer could have been tested first perhaps that would have never happened.

So, welcome to the future of food.  Where everyone, not just extremely picky eaters, inspects everything before it goes in their mouth.  This may not something like an exciting version of the future but, hey, if it cuts down on food poisoning, ends food recalls, and prevents people from getting sick from drinking beer then it’ll definitely be worth it.

Is a food safety device that works like a pregnancy test the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It’s happened to all of us.  A night out with friends, a family get together, a hot date, all ruined by a horrible dining experience.  From slow service to getting ignored when you first sit down there are a lot of things that could go wrong when you eat out in a fancy restaurant.  Perhaps it would be better then if we could find a way to automate the process.  Find a way to eliminate human error as much as possible.  Thankfully that may soon be a possibility thanks to a restaurant chain in Singapore known as Timbre that is pioneering a new automated food delivery system.  One in which drones deliver your food to the table.  Drones!

Logistically this actually makes a lot of sense as you’d no longer run the risk of a waiter or bus boy dropping a plate of food on their way to/from a table.  Also, restaurant goers wouldn’t have to constantly stop their conversations whenever a noisy waiter comes within earshot.   And it will, in theory, be a much more peaceful dining experience with less foot traffic around you, with fewer chances of having people bump into you while you’re eating.    From the restaurants’ standpoint it makes sense as well since you’d have fewer employees to pay and could probably pack tables closer together.  However, this doesn’t mean that waiters are going away entirely.

As CNET reports, “Having robotic waiters doesn’t mean humans are out of work. The drones help to eliminate the need for the restaurant’s wait staff to weave through the busy dining area, as they’re responsible for flying the food from the kitchen over the heads of hungry customers.  Human waiters instead spend more time interacting with diners, taking orders and clearing dishes — and they’re still needed to take the food and drinks from the floating delivery platform and give them to each customer when they arrive.”

If the drones could get to the point though where they could safely drop the food onto patron’s plates without the need for waiters to remove them then you might really be on to something here.  Or perhaps just make it so that patrons could just stand up and grab the food themselves.  Once you get to that point you could fully automate the entire dining experience.  So if you need a drink refill or a bottle of ketchup or another fork you wouldn’t have to wait for a waiter to bring you one.  You could just press a button and have a drone bring it to you.

All in all, I hope that no drones crash land in someone’s soup during this trial run in Singapore and that drone waiters catch on.  Because drones!

Is a drone waiter the Greatest Idea Ever?

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From pizza and chocolate to guns and cars the number of things that can be 3-D printed continues to grow each day.  Soon we may even be able to 3-D print something that grows after getting printed.  That’s because thanks to food designer Chloe Rutzerveld we may soon have 3-D printed snacks that sprout mushrooms and plants over time for added flavor.  A potential game changing concept that could create a sustainable food source for billions of people around the world.

As Dezeen reports, “Rutzerveld’s Edible Growth project consists of 3-D printed shapes containing a mixture of seeds, spores and yeast, which will start to grow after only a few days. ‘Edible growth is exploring how 3-D printing could transform the food industry,’ she says in the movie. ‘It is about 3-D printing with living organisms, which will develop into a fully grown edible.”

This concept is basically a version of 4-D printing, where objects change shape over time.  At first, it seemed likely that 4-D printing would be used in manufacturing to create self-assembling furniture or in space travel to create useful technologies like satellites that travel when compacted down but then unfurl once in space.  However, the idea of 4-D printing food that adds flavor over time could work as well.  At least, that is, if you don’t mind eating something that’s technically still alive.

Is Edible Growth the Greatest Idea Ever?

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There are many foods that I don’t like.  Others I might like but never even tried.  From the way something looks to its texture to its smell there are many reasons as to why I’ll get turned off by a potential food source.

I realize that this is to my own detriment but there’s nothing I can do about it.  There’s a zero percent chance I’ll ever eat sushi.  An even smaller chance I’ll ever eat a casserole.  If we’re talking about something with more than three ingredients in it we’re probably talking about something that I won’t eat.

This often puts me in uncomfortable situations that require awkward workarounds.  Case in point: the time I rolled up to a dinner party at a vegetarian’s house with a bucket of KFC.  Thankfully there may soon be a way for me to enjoy the finer things in life without ever having to actually eat them.  That’s because we may soon have vaporized cuisine via technology known as whaffing.

Created by Harvard University professor Dr. David Edwards, whaffing, as Vice writes, “utilizes ultrasound technology to create pressure waves that produce a vapor interspersed with droplets.  Patrons are then able to ‘sip’ from glasses filled with the smoke using the straw.  For the introductory exhibition, Edwards invited four chefs to try his technology, yielding ‘immaterial sushi and duck l’orange.’ We’ve heard of vaporizing food essences before, but never an entire meal.”

I could easily see this technology catching on in a trendy way.  Perhaps replacing another vaporized past time, Hookah lounges, as a way to pass time on a Saturday night.  One thing in won’t replace though: actually eating real food!

You Can Sip Sushi With This Chef's Vaporized Cuisine

Is Vaporized Cuisine the Greatest Idea Ever?

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My mom’s chicken cutlets.  My step dad’s steak.  Some of my favorite things to eat are made by other people.  A luxury that I no longer enjoy now that I live alone.  In fact, as a single guy with a busy schedule it’s conceivable that it may be a long time before I enjoy another home cooked meal prepared by someone else.  Sadly, for the foreseeable future it’s Chinese food take out and George Foreman grilled steak for me.

All that could change though in the near future thanks to a newly created robotic chef capable of preparing up to 2,000 meals!  Considering that I only eat the same six things that’s way more capability than I’ll ever need.  But nonetheless, it’s still an incredible concept.  One that harkens to the Rosie the Robot inspired future that the Jetsons popularized.  A future of flying cars and moving sidewalks that we’ve longed sought and have yet to receive.

So how does this amazing Robotic Chef aka my new best friend work?!?

Time magazine explains:  “Comprised of two robotic arms in a specially designed kitchen, which includes a stove top, utensils and a sink, the device is able to reproduce the movements of a human chef in order to create a meal from scratch. The robot learns the movements after they are performed by a human chef, captured on a 3D camera and uploaded into the computer.”

But, wait.  There’s more!  As I Fucking Love Science reports, “According to Moley’s website, the firm hopes to bring a consumer version to market by 2017 that will feature several additions, including a library of thousands of recipes, a dishwasher and a refrigerator. This means you not only won’t have to cook or prep for yourself if you can’t be bothered, but you don’t even need to wash up afterward.”

This is pretty amazing stuff and could be looked at by future historians as one of the seminal turning points in man’s interaction with machine.  Right up there with the first time that a computer beat a man in chess or when IBM’s Watson won Jeopardy.  Speaking of Watson he’s seemingly grown bored with trying to cure cancer and has instead set his sights on devising new recipes.  The kind of recipes that a human would never think to try.

As the Washington Post puts it, “Watson is enormously complicated, so it’s hard to explain exactly what the site is doing when it makes its recommendations. But in the most basic terms, Watson ingests a huge amount of unstructured data — recipes, books, academic studies, tweets — and analyzes it for patterns the human eye wouldn’t detect. (If you’ve seen the recent blockbuster “Ex Machina,” you have a general, if sci-fi, model for this type of machine-learning.)”

All in all, it’s clear that between this new robotic chef and Watson’s acumen for creating new recipes that we’ve entered a new age, one in which we use technology not just to entertain us but also to support us.  When it’s all said and done though, I have a feeling that nothing’s going to beat mom’s chicken cutlets.

Is a Robot Chef the Greatest Idea Ever?

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