We’ve all heard about space-age kitchen appliances such as NCR’s Web-enabled Microwave Bank and Electrolux’s Screen Fridge. After a long day at the office, who among us couldn’t use a little help in the kitchen?

Two new innovations are using IT to make your cooking time more efficient and effective.

First is The Intelligent Microwave Oven, developed by Kit Yam, associate research professor, at the Department of Food Science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. Unlike traditional microwave ovens, which can leave some foods soggy, or conventional ovens, which can take a long time to cook, Yam’s device uses a combination of heating modes to obtain optimal results.

“By using a combination of microwave, convective heat and radiant heat, we can have the best of both the speed and quality,” Yam says. And that’s not all: The infopliance also features a bar-code scanner that can read package information from the food about to be cooked. Rutgers is currently working with food companies and bar-code manufacturers so that bar codes will include information about nutrition and cooking instructions. Once that happens, the oven will be able to display the information. Commercial units of The Intelligent Microwave Oven may be available within a year or two, priced less than US$1,000.

Meanwhile, CMi Worldwide’s Internet-enabled iCEBOX lets you send e-mail, shop on-line, watch television and play audio and video CDs — all while keeping an eye on those cookies in the oven. With the addition of a video camera, it can act as your second pair of eyes anywhere in the house, allowing you to monitor Junior sleeping upstairs, for instance.

The iCEBOX is shaped like a small television and weighs only 16 pounds. It is due in July for about US$499. Visit www.cmiworldwide.com.

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