Category: Technology

Hotel Room of the Future Winners Announced

Earlier this year two rule-breaking Louisville-based companies and Monogram partners, 21c Museum Hotels and FirstBuild, joined forces to transform the hotel guest experience through The Hotel Room of the Future Challenge. They asked designers, makers, engineers, artists and more to submit their inventive, functional designs to create the ultimate hotel stay. After receiving dozens of submissions and spending countless hours evaluating each and every idea, the judges (with the help of community voting) have come to a conclusion.

Curious about the winners? Visit the FirstBuild blog to learn about the winners and their exciting concepts.

 

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Connect with your kitchen

In today’s world, we are all connected in one way or another to everything around us, so why not be connected in your kitchen as well.  Thanks to Monogram’s WiFi Connect, you can talk to your appliances from anywhere – giving you the ability to monitor and control your appliances with your smartphone.

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How will Monogram’s connected appliances help you? So many ways!

Ovens:

  • Preheat your oven, no matter where you are
  • Set timer alerts when you are baking or roasting
  • Change the oven temperature from anywhere

Dishwashers:

  • See cycle time remaining
  • Lock and unlock door
  • Track pods and rinse aid
  • Get alerts if something is preventing you from the best wash

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Learn more and share your thoughts on the NKBA Connect blog today.

The Smart Kitchen Evolution

Written by Molly Ford, Monogram Experience Center intern

We have all seen the home become increasingly “smarter,” or more device-central, but large kitchen appliances have not kept up at the rate that smaller technologies have developed. The heart of the home is finally seeing some long-anticipated upgrades that bring the kitchen up to speed with the rest of the house. The idea of connecting intuitive technologies with powerful appliances creates an impressive duo- with relatively untapped potential.

The Amazon Echo has been on the scene for about a year, and has rapidly grown from a novelty gadget to a hub for home-automation. The Echo is a voice-enabled wireless speaker – think of a stand-alone Siri with a longer list of skills. Here at the Monogram Experience Center, we wanted to see how we could use the Echo in our day-to-day work and personal lives. We have made “Alexa,” the Echo’s trigger name, our assistant chef, secretary, entertainer, and more.

Alexa will provide us with meal ideas, food storage information, beer and wine pairings, measurement calculations, create a synced grocery list, among a constantly growing list of skills. These are fun to play with, and legitimately helpful, but the real “smart kitchen” came when we connected the Echo with our wall ovens.  We can control these ovens with our voice saying something like,

“Alexa, turn on the upper oven to 350 degrees and set the timer for 45 minutes.”

Alexa will confirm and immediately start the oven. Similarly, we can control the range hood and lights, and the team is constantly collaborating with developers to add kitchen elements to blend appliances with devices.

Voice-enabled appliances are a just a peek at how technology could change the way we cook and spend time in the kitchen, and we are eager to see the next convenience we can offer our customers.  The program is still in it’s infancy, but we expect to see everything but the kitchen sink connected to our Echo soon – and who knows, they might throw that in too!

The Amazon Echo and our Monogram wall oven in the Monogram Experience Center.

The Amazon Echo and our Monogram wall oven in the Monogram Experience Center.

Lou’s views: observations from a retiring Design Director

Written by Lou Lenzi, retired GE Appliances Director of Design

This will be my last “Save Room” blog entry. After 36 years in the Design profession, it’s time to down-shift and pursue my hobbies and interests on a full-time basis. Like most designers, this will involve trying to create something of beauty, only on my time this time. I’m delighted that my successor, Marc Hottenroth, a 24 year veteran of the GE Appliances Design team, will assume the role of Design Director by the time you read this.

Before signing off, I’d humbly like to share some observations on the state-of-our-art, along with some predictions.

Technology: a Healthy Dialog

While connected appliances are in full bloom in the kitchen and laundry room, connectivity itself is still in its infancy. Yes, we’re providing new levels of convenience and performance through our WiFi enabled products, but the next meaningful wave has yet to hit the shore. That will come when we fully integrate kitchen design, rich information services, and connected appliances. What’s the “killer app”, to use an old phrase? I believe it will come in the form of quick and convenient healthy meal planning and preparation. Let’s face it, reducing the cost of health care in the US begins with our diet, and as key influencers in the kitchen, it’s time we all step-up and play a role here.

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The interactive multimedia induction cooktop makes healthy meal prep easy

 

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The interactive multimedia induction cooktop makes healthy meal prep easy

 

We will also begin talking to our appliances. And unlike adolescent children, they will dutifully listen and respond. The cost of voice recognition technology is coming down and accuracy is improving, helping to ease access to those amazing technologies and features we’ve been incorporating into our products. Why press a bunch of buttons or dive into a multi-layered menu system when you can simply say “heat the upper oven to 350 degrees” or tell the water heater you’ll need more hot water for the guests coming to visit this weekend. For those nay-sayers convinced we’ll never talk to machines, it wasn’t too long ago that people said we’d never read our favorite authors on a piece of glass because it wasn’t as cozy or inviting as the printed page.

The disappearing kitchen

Just as the kitchen became the focal point of our home, so too will it look less like a kitchen. Certain appliances will begin to “disappear” – first through finishes and user interfaces that blend into the surrounding cabinetry, followed by appliances that become the cabinetry. Small form-factor housing and alternative living patterns – think multi-generational households – will also contribute to us rethinking the industrial design of our products, transitioning from a machine-art to a furniture aesthetic.

Where's the kitchen?

Where’s the kitchen?

The mobile home, built by a robot?

Today’s mobile workforce, coupled with our desire to sample a variety of living environments means we’ll delay owning a home and being tethered to a mortgage. That’s not to say we won’t seek out well thought-out, intellectually stimulating and comfortable communities, we’ll just rent a home in that community, then simply move on to the next experience whenever we’re ready for a change.

Home construction building methods and techniques will dramatically change. The skilled-trade workforce that home builders have historically relied upon has dramatically shrunk since the great recession and they are not likely to return to the levels necessary to support traditional stick-built style home construction. Modular and automated factory-based manufacturing processes will finally take root after many false starts, followed by the emergence of large, on-site 3D printing techniques. After 200 years, the stick-built home, along with its associated material waste and inefficiencies, may be a thing of the past.

I hope these thoughts will stimulate further discussion among the Monogram design community. It’s been an absolute joy to chat with you.

 

 

Coffee Time

Written by Wilberto Badilla, FirstBuild Digital Storyteller

Every year, especially in the warmer months, coffee drinkers look towards the colder counterpart of their usual cup of joe: iced coffee. In many cases, iced coffee is just older coffee that is poured over ice. In recent years, a challenger to the cold coffee throne has emerged and its name is “cold brew.” Cold brew has gained popularity exponentially in the last four years, and a simple trend analysis shows that it has no signs of slowing down.

So what is cold brew? Cold brew is coffee that is brewed for extended periods of time using room-temperature water. The result is a more balanced, less acidic, and in general, different flavored beverage to both hot coffee and iced coffee.

As mentioned, the traditional process is an extended one, often taking 24+ hours to brew a batch of cold brew coffee. This presents a problem for those out there who want their coffee “now” – as we’ve grown accustomed to – as well as for coffee shops who essentially have to estimate the next day’s demand for the cool beverage.

Enter FirstBuild and the Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker. Prisma makes cold brew coffee in 10 minutes, a drastically shortened timeframe to the more traditional 24 hour brew time. FirstBuild engineers have developed a vacuum pump system inside Prisma’s base that degasifies the water within the brewing chamber and increases the solubility of coffee compounds.

To this point, being able to brew a batch of cold brew right when you want it has been impossible. Although Prisma is still a prototype, it does function and produces great-tasting cold brew coffee. In fact, Prisma took home 2nd place in the “Best New Product” category at CoffeeFest, two months ago.

Prisma was released via crowdfunding on Indiegogo in August, which allows interested individual to get in early in exchange for a lower price than the eventual $299 retail price.

To learn more about Prisma or to sign-up for future updates, visit our website!

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Semantic Lighting – An Illuminating New Concept

I recently attended the 10th annual LEDucation seminar in New York City to learn about new trends in lighting technology. I expected to hear a lot about connected homes and lighting controls, but there was one big new concept that caught my imagination.

Since the invention of the light bulb, the ability to light our surroundings has revolutionized how we live. Now, those on the leading edge of lighting innovation believe that illumination will take on a more personal role in our lives, predicting and connecting human needs with lighting systems. This new concept is called “semantic lighting.”

These new lighting systems, through the use of sensors, identify what is being lit and with the help of algorithms, why it is being lit. This “system intelligence” means that lighting needs can be predicted and adjusted automatically, making them more human-centric. And in this day of growing human-machine interactions, who wouldn’t appreciate an application made primarily for our individual comfort?

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At LEDucation, customization of lighting levels, color, hue and effect were presented.

 

Micro-topics in a Macro-space

Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances

I recently had the pleasure of visiting UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design (A.UD) department located at the Hercules Campus in Playa Vista, CA, the site where Howard Hughes built the infamous “Spruce Goose” aircraft in the 1940’s.

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The Hercules Building then

The Hercules Building now

The Hercules Building now

Ironically, I was invited to this cavernous space to talk with a group of post-professional Masters of Architecture students and faculty about micro-things, specifically our Monogram micro-kitchen concept for small scale homes and GE Appliances FirstBuild micro-factory.

The students are engaged in a year-long research project that explores what “community” will mean in the second half of the 21st century, factoring in rapidly changing developments in technology, communications, transportation, healthcare and other major societal forces. So it was fitting to visit and exchange ideas around the future of housing and the future of manufacturing.

As a designer, I find it beneficial to occasionally get out of the studio here in Louisville, spend time with design and architecture students and take a look at the world from their perspective. I often find myself becoming the student in these situations.

The design team here at GE Appliances is excited to see this project develop and I promised the faculty to stay close as their research project progresses. It shouldn’t be too tough to get the design staff to visit the class in Southern California – particularly during the winter months.

Let there be light

Written by Lou Lenzi, Director of Industrial Design for GE Appliances

French door refrigerators are the rage today. Everyone loves the experience of opening those double-doors and seeing a wide, unobstructed view of the contents of their fridge. Those panoramic views of your boxed wine and party trays are often enhanced by a collection of LED spot lights mounted in tiny “pucks” built into the side walls of the refrigerator case. So dramatic is the presentation, that we’ve actually witnessed homeowners hum a heavenly choral tune while opening their fridge doors.

We decided to take this experience to the next level with our new Monogram French Door Bottom Freezer Refrigerator by embedding a row of LED’s directly into each of the four adjustable glass shelves. This not only creates the visual drama worthy of a Paul Mottram movie soundtrack, it more effectively distributes lighting throughout the entire refrigerator space.

Wait a minute: there are LED lights embedded in adjustable glass shelves? So how do they plug in and yet remain adjustable up and down in the refrigerator?

Two of our industrial designers, Sally and Justin, got together in the Design Studio and figured it out. They created an electrical circuit that employs the metal bracket that holds the shelves as a low voltage “bus” and couple it with a tiny prong at the end of each of the 4 adjustable shelves.

 

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Is your refrigerator illuminating your food in its best possible light? Are such gastronomical theatrics worth it? We’d like to know.