There wasn't much high-tech in my mother's kitchen in the 1960s. Her "labor-saving devices," as they were called back then, were an electric can opener and a waffle iron. Our icemaker was an aluminum tray with cube-shaped dividers.
I thought about mom's kitchen recently as I was checking out some of the latest innovations in kitchen and laundry appliances. I wondered what she would make of a refrigerator that dispensed hot coffee or an outdoor grill that you could talk to.
That refrigerator, part of GE's Café series, comes with a Keurig single-cup brewing machine built into a door that also dispenses ice and filtered water. Pop in a K-Cup and the machine heats water to 190 degrees and produces a steaming mug of coffee, tea or cocoa in about four minutes.
GE officials said their customers had asked for hot water dispenser and adding a Keurig coffeemaker seemed like a logical enhancement for the new refrigerator, which costs about $3,300. The coffeemaker can also be controlled from a mobile phone, which means you can order your coffee before you get out of bed. The latest version of the Lynx SmartGrill is built to take the guesswork out of outdoor cooking. It will ask you what you’re cooking and your preferences: do you want your steaks well done or medium rare? It then sets the heat level and uses a digital display or your mobile phone to indicate when it's time to turn the meat or remove your food. Once you create the perfect burger or rack of ribs, the Lynx will remember the precise settings for the next time and share your recipe with other Lynx users. Prices for the SmartGrill start at about $6,000. That’s pretty steep, even for perfect burgers. The Korean manufacturers LG and Samsung have both come up with new enhancements to their line of washing machines. The LG Twin Wash system lets you run two loads of laundry at the same time by using a separate smaller washer built into the pedestal under the main washer.
The idea is to use the mini washer to launder delicate items or smaller loads. The pedestal washer will be sold separately when it’s released later this year and can be paired with a variety of full-sized LG front-load washers.
Samsung’s innovation adds a sink in the lid of a top-loading washing machine in the company’s Activewash line.
The sink can be used to pre-treat stains or give clothes a little hand scrubbing before dropping them into the tub. The sink has a water dispenser and drain and a ribbed surface that will remind some people of their grandmother’s washboard.
Whirlpool’s Swash system takes a different approach to cleaning garments : it freshens shirts, dresses, sweaters or suits between trips to the dry cleaners.
The Swash machine doesn’t need water, just an electrical outlet. A slide-out compartment holds a single garment for a ten-minute treatment using a gel-like solution from a disposable cup. The 10-minute treatment also heats the garment to remove wrinkles.
Whirlpool says the $500 device is aimed at people who want to wear their clothes more than once before having them professionally cleaned. That sounds more like my college roommate than my mom.
I started reporting on gadgets and gear when Atari ruled electronic games and computers used floppy disks. My weekly column ran in the The Louisville Courier-Journal and online at USAToday.com and ABC News.com. I regularly attend CES, the CEDIA home theater convention and other tech events. You can follow my Twitter posts @ricmanning and contact me at email@example.com