Samsung has been trying to make the connected kitchen work since 2016, when it launched its smart fridge with an Android tablet slapped on the front. But today, with the reveal of Samsung Food at the IFA 2023 tech show, it took a big step in the right direction.
This isn’t because the app is amazingly innovative at launch. In fact, slightly the opposite. It’s a rebranded, revamped version of the Whisk app, which has been around since 2013. With this new version of the software, Samsung is finally uniting the disparate sides of smart cooking: the recipes, the food itself, and the kitchen appliances.
In many ways, Samsung Food is a culmination of everything Samsung has been working toward since that shiny smart fridge first appeared and became the butt of “phablet fridge” jokes.
I demoed Samsung Food’s features at IFA this week. I used the app to scan some salmon and a pot of basil, and it offered up a few recipes from its trove of 160,000 that used those ingredients. The app then gave me options to tailor the recipe to balance things like the sugar or fat content, make it “quick and easy,” vegan, or even a “fusion” recipe by giving it a “Mexican twist.”
Next was a step-by-step cooking guide that wirelessly synced my dish’s cooking settings to the nearby Samsung oven. I could see myself using these features in my kitchen, and while it’s easy to type ingredients into a search field, snapping a picture is easier.
While at launch, Samsung Food works with only one appliance — the Samsung Bespoke wall oven — the infrastructure is arriving for compatibility with multiple devices across many of the major competing appliance brands.
This is thanks to Samsung’s role as a founding member of the Home Connectivity Alliance (HCA), a group working to make major appliances from different manufacturers interoperable. Interoperability has been a significant missing link in the smart kitchen — easily connecting any recipe you want to any smart appliance you might have so it can take some of the cooking chores off your hands.
Samsung Food is also leveraging generative AI in one of the first really useful applications I’ve seen for the new wave of AI in the smart home. The app can take away the busywork of creating meal plans, building grocery lists, and even shopping.
It works by you collecting recipes to cook for the week. These can be from anywhere — your favorite website, your grandmother’s cookbook, or options from Samsung Food. Then, the “Food AI” (as Samsung is calling it) analyzes them, standardizes their format, and creates shopping lists based on their ingredients. You can then order the ingredients from your local grocery store with a few taps.
Meal planning can save families time and money, but it also takes time — for me, at least an hour a week to prep meals for my family of four, and that’s not including the shopping. If the features of Samsung Food can consistently save me that hour, I’ll be impressed.
At launch, Samsung Food will interface with SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home platform, to do things like send cooking directions to the Samsung-connected oven to preheat it, adjust temperatures during the cook cycle, and set the correct time for you.
Whisk founder Nick Holzherr, now of Samsung, told me in an interview that other Samsung cooking devices will be added later this year — including the cooktop, microwave, Family Hub refrigerator, and connected water filter. And the head of SmartThings, Jaeyeon Jung, confirmed to me that thanks to Samsung’s role in the HCA, you’ll be able to use non-Samsung appliances with the app when those integrations launch later this year. At first, that includes appliances from LG and Vestel, but more are on the way.
To date, the smart kitchen has been tied to appliances from one manufacturer or limited to a single device. But now, we’re starting to see interoperability between them. The disparate parts of the connected kitchen — planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking — are beginning to come together, and the smart kitchen’s potential is becoming clearer.
The potential for generative AI to add more utility to the smart kitchen is also primed.
Jung tells me there are more AI-powered features in the pipeline, including, later this year, an integration with Samsung Health to help you tailor your meal plans based on factors like BMI, body composition, and calorie consumption.
Next year, he says Vision AI technology will enable Samsung Food to recognize food items and meals photographed through the camera and provide details about them. “AI has moved so fast in the last year that we’re at a point where we can hold the phone up to a dish, and it will recognize the ingredients and provide you with all the nutritional information,” says Holzherr. He used an example of scanning a meal at a restaurant: “It will show you how you can make that dish at home and even use AI to adapt the recipe, switch it up, make it healthier.”
We’ve come a long way from companies sticking a camera in the fridge so you can see if you need to buy eggs from the grocery store. The progress here is kind of exciting: a smart fridge that can analyze its contents and automatically offer up a shopping list and meal plans without you having to do anything — other than cook and eat the food — is, well, mouthwatering.