What appliance will become the hub for the smart kitchen of the future? While companies like LG and Samsung seem to point towards the fridge, GE thinks its Kitchen Hub microwave, which it debuted at CES 2020, will be the centerpiece.
The exterior of the Kitchen Hub has a mammoth 27-inch touchscreen running Android; it's like a large tablet attached to your microwave, through which you can stream movies through apps like Netflix, control smart home devices, and do pretty much everything you can do with an Android tablet. And, because it has Google Assistant built in, you can do everything by voice command.
But calling this thing a microwave with an Android touchscreen would be missing out on its more interesting features. Its tricks begin with the three cameras embedded in the Kitchen Hub: One on the inside, one on the front, and one facing down at your cooktop. The Hub uses computer vision to identify objects, such as food items, and then can suggest recipes that use those ingredients. In my house, this is always a challenge later in the week when we have a random assortment of foodstuffs, but don't know what to make for dinner.
The Hub will then guide you through each step, and it can even control other connected GE appliances throughout your meal preparation. Its actions even change based on the doneness of your food.
For instance, let's say you were making a roast chicken. As you're seasoning the bird, the Kitchen Hub can tell the oven to start preheating. After you put the chicken in the oven, the Kitchen Hub will monitor its progress using either a thermometer or a camera in the oven itself. When the chicken is done cooking, the Kitchen Hub will automatically turn the oven down to keep things warm without overcooking. And, you can use an app on your smartphone to check in on the progress, similar to the camera in smaller smart ovens like the June smart oven.
I like the idea of a screen in the door of a microwave, rather than that of a fridge. For one thing, the orientation of the screen makes it better for watching TV—I love cooking, but I hate having to dash between my kitchen and my living room to see how the Eagles are doing when I'm making a Sunday gravy during football season. Plus, if you're cooking something, it makes more sense to have the recipe in front of you, rather than having to look over to a display on your refrigerator.
GE launched a Kitchen Hub last year, but that was basically a large over-range vent, and lacked the AI capabilities of this year's model. Adding the microwave, which has a 1.9 cubic-foot capacity, definitely makes it more appealing, especially for those (like me) whose microwaves are mounted above their stoves.
The new version of the Kitchen Hub also has Bluetooth, so you can stream music from your phone to the Hub's speakers.
GE said that the new Kitchen Hub will be available towards the end of 2020, and has yet to set a price. Considering the previous model was around $1,200, we wouldn't be surprised to see the new one in that same range. That's more than a few dinners out with the family, but this "microwave" can do a heck of a lot more than just reheat your burrito.
Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas.