Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Cyborg chefs, android butlers and robot maids may be figments of futuristic fantasy. But until they’re invented, today’s families can at least rely on one high-tech helper in their homes: a smart speaker like Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod, powered by an artificially intelligent virtual assistant (respectively, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri).
While these gizmos can work wonders in any room, many experts believe there’s no better spot in your home for such devices than the kitchen.
“A smart speaker is perfect for the kitchen,” says Hagop Imasdounian, designer with Apico Kitchens in Toronto. “It’s one of the few rooms where you regularly have your hands full or dirty, and it can solve simple tasks for you while you’re cooking or doing the dishes.”
Able to be operated solely by voice command, a smart speaker is the ideal kitchen appliance. Here are seven of the many things they can do.
1. Play songs, internet radio stations, podcasts or audiobooks while you’re cooking, cleaning or entertaining. “I use my Google Home to control music playing in my kitchen. If a song comes on that I don’t like, I can tell my speaker to change the song without having to clean my hands and grab my phone,” says Imasdounian.
2. Suggest recipe ideas and provide cooking instructions. Case in point: ask Google Home for a recipe for chocolate chip cookies and it will recommend a popular one from Allrecipes.com, with step-by-step directions. “I have two Alexa recipe skills I use – My Kitchen and My Keto Kitchen. I just say, ‘Alexa, ask My Kitchen what’s for dinner,’ and she recommends a dish and sends the recipe to my phone,” says Margaret Groves, a homeowner and Echo user from Tacoma, Washington. “I also ask for advice like ‘how long do I cook a pork roast?’”
3. Convert units of measure. “Need to know how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? Simply ask Google,” says Mark Spates, product lead for Google Home in Mountain View, California.
4. Set multiple timers. No more burnt muffins or undercooked minute rice. You can ask Siri, for instance, to remind you to turn off the oven in 10 minutes, how much time is left on that timer, to start a second timer for 15 minutes and then to pause that timer.
5. Create and maintain grocery lists. “Whenever my partner or I use the last of something, we can simply tell Alexa to add that item to the appropriate shopping list for the store we use,” says Will Haynes, a Columbus, Ohio-based homeowner. “This list appears in the Alexa app on our phones, so it’s easy to know what we need when shopping at the store.”
6. Alert the family that it’s time to eat. With two or more Google Home devices, “you can broadcast throughout your house that dinner is ready and even add a dinner bell to your broadcast,” Spates notes.
7. Make phone calls. “I’ve had a few times where I’ve had the need to call someone while working in the kitchen and could talk hands-free,” says Haynes.
Whatever you plan to use your smart speaker for, remember that proper placement is crucial to ensure that you and it hear each other clearly.
“I recommend that it should be within direct line of sight from every high use point, like the sink and prep station,” Imasdounian says. “You may want to use a bracket to mount it to a wall or the underside of an upper cabinet, which would also prevent any water, food or debris from getting to it.”
However, if you plan to listen to a lot of tunes, “you may want to place it somewhere where there’s no cabinets above it, as it can cause a slight muddying of the sound when it’s in a semi-enclosed space,” adds Imasdounian.