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Let Us Now Give Thanks for the Munchifier!

Three years ago I put together a post for this blog about how to use a Raspberry Pi controller to get your Thanksgiving turkey to provide you with status tweets from the oven. Given the current state of our connected world, this idea now seems somewhat quaint. At the time, however, it was only the second of our posts to address the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), so I still take some satisfaction from having been not too far behind. It does put some pressure on me to come up with new holiday kitchen themed innovations to share. Let’s see what we’ve got this time around...

Is your tablet still recovering from the shower it received when Aunt Lou dropped a pomegranate in the gravy? Why read the recipe from your device on the counter when the counter can be your device? Interactive Light has shown proof of concept for a gesture-recognizing, context aware screen that can be projected onto any surface. As this technology begins to come to market in a wide array of applications, get ready to start using terms such as ambient computing and tangible bits.

“All well and good”, you say, “but why should I be doing the cooking? What I really want is the food replicator from Star Trek”. Shouldn’t 3-D printing be allowing me to say “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” just like Captain Jean-Luc Picard and have it appear instantly? Well, not exactly, and while many of the forays into 3-D printed food have been unusual to say the least, how do you feel about popsicles? Pixsweet has developed a food customization platform that combines 3D printing with distributed manufacturing. It allows you to upload any image, have it turned into a 3D ice pop at the rate of one every 1.3 seconds, and then be packaged and shipped directly to you. We need this innovation if only because the name of its user interface – The Munchifier – is too adorable not to exist.

But wait. Why are you only using a small fraction of the potential of your tongue? With all that sensory surface that connects directly to the brain why would you want to waste it on a sad green bean casserole (or even this excellent one)? By developing a three by three pad of electrodes connected with an Arduino controller, Tongueduino allows you to use your papillae to perceive anything that can be collected by an environmental sensor. Got a sensor that detects the earth’s magnetic field? Bam, your tongue becomes a compass. Combine it with piezoelectric whisker sensors and perhaps enable the blind to develop a kinesthetic view of the environment.

So, while we’re still some way off from an exoskeleton that will allow you to carry all of Grand Ma’s pies from the car in one trip, some of the same disruptive innovations that may be coming to manufacturing 4.0 are already here in Thanksgiving-themed forms.

About the author

Jeff Lucas

Jeff Lucas is a Regional Manager working with the MEP Centers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Before joining MEP, he previously worked with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, also at NIST. He has also used his background in organizational development and program evaluation in the fields of career and technical education and hotel management.

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