Spatial Media: Kitchen Interface

Spatial Media looks to be an interesting topic. One thing that I could really take away from Jared’s first presentation was:

“It’s about context in space. It’s about information – all information has a space. Conversely, all places have information.”

Assignment 1: The Kitchen
What is the context of a kitchen? How do people really use kitchens?

A quick (hardly inclusive) list of kitchen based activities: Cooking, eating, cleaning. Socializing. Entertaining. Storing food – pantry / refrigerator.

Drilling down into just one activity, cooking, what could be involved in that task which could have an interface designed?

Cooking tasks:

  • Gather ingredients.
  • Prepare ingredients.
  • Prepare tools – utensils, cookware.
  • Prepare cooking surface – preheat oven, grease pans, boil water, warm oil.
  • Cook – various methods: steam, sauté, stir fry, sear, boil, broil, bake, warm, poach, deep fry
  • Cook – manipulate: toss, stir, brown, scramble, blanche
  • Often tasks are interleaved and simultaneous. ie. cooking something while gathering or preparing another.
  • Presentation.
  • EAT! (not really part of cooking, exactly, but it’s a big reward for the effort).
  • clean.

range_demo_overlay_wide_flamesSo, the act of cooking is quite complex. Maybe simplify, and just provide visual information about the stove. Gas ranges have a natural visual indication of their setting… larger flames indicate a hotter setting; you can hear the gas of the oven ignite when it’s warming. Electric coil ranges aren’t as expressive, although glowing red coils usually means it’s really hot. Sealed element electric ranges may glow differently. Many ranges have some kind of other visual cue to warn of a warm surface. Often these are lights distanced from the heating elements themselves and may suffer from poor mapping.

What information is relevant? Temperature / setting of the range and oven. Heating up / cooling down. Preheat ETA? Multiple cooking timers? Presence of cookware?
Direct (natural) mapping is most important here. Whereas gas ranges indicate their heat setting visually as a by-product of the technology and electric ranges seem to indicate whether the surface is warm or not, in both cases the temperature of the cooking surface must be inferred. Hot oil will sizzle water – too hot will smoke. How warm is a low setting? If cooking instructions don’t indicate an explicit temperature requirement in objective units, is it necessary to display the specific temperature of the cooking surface? Should this be an entirely new proprietary system, or it is something that can be retrofit onto existing ranges?

range-overlay-top-flamesCooking surface temperature:
Use color? Blue -> Red is a typical cool -> hot mapping. Gas ranges typically have blue flame, though regardless of the temperature setting. Use saturation? White (cool) -> Red (hot)?

Burner setting:
If using color to indicate the current temperature of the range, perhaps the scale of a particular burner’s display could indicate the target setting. A small graphic would be a low setting with a larger graphic indicating a high setting

Controls:
If retrofitting, perhaps there could be an indication of which control is mapped to which heating element. When an element is touched, display a connecting path to the controlled burner. If the heat is increased, display pulses along the path from the control to the burner “adding heat”; conversely display pulses from the burner to the control as it is reduced.

Design notes:
All graphics related to a particular burner will share that burner’s current temperature color. Too many colors became distracting and confusing.

Considerations:
Heat. Smoke. Steam (humidity). Splashes. Physical impact. Oil splatter. Dark range surface. Utensils on the range obscuring the display?

Technology:
Projector, mounted above range, in range hood, should keep it away from most spills and splatters, however it would still be susceptible to heat, humidity and smoke.
Temperature sensor(s). Physically mounted at each burner? Infrared / Laser temperature sensor(s) mounted in the range hood may permit sensing of the cooking surface rather then the heating element.
Microcontroller to manage sensors.
Multimedia computer to generate display

Other considerations:
There seem to be several patents for various in-kitchen work surface projection displays.
Built-in kitchen having projector, and cooking assisting image projecting system – Patent Review 6334684
Interactive kitchen control system and method – Patent Review 6976004

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