Are Smart Appliances Too Smart?

April 1, 2023

April Clementine, a resident of East Muncie, Ind., and a mother of two, recently found herself in a situation that was at once both familiar and very, very strange. She was caught in a verbal crossfire between her smart kitchen appliances.

“As a mom, I’m used to negotiating a truce between my kids when they have a spat,” said the 35-year-old graduate of Ripley Community College. “It’s often a way to teach them how to see something from another person’s point of view and practice the art of compromise. But that experience didn’t prepare me at all for what happened in my kitchen the other evening.”

On Friday, Clementine had just started to prepare dinner for the family. As she has routinely done before, she asked her voice-activated faucet to dispense six cups of cold water into the pasta pot; the stainless-steel fitting acknowledged her request and began to fill the container.

Then the refrigerator piped up: “We are out of grated parmesan cheese. I will add it to the Instacart list.”

“At first, I thought it was my husband talking,” said Clementine. “Then the stove joined the conversation, and I knew something was not exactly right.”

“Activating Power Boost burner,” said the induction cooktop.

“Do not activate Power Boost burner,” ordered the smart ventilation hood. “Faucet is not finished filling pot with six cups cold water.”

The fridge interrupted. “There is an Instacart surcharge for 20-minute delivery of grated parmesan cheese. Do you want to proceed?”

Unsettled by the seemingly spontaneous dialogue between the white goods, Clementine, who works from home as a biophilic design consultant, dashed to the basement breaker box and tripped the switch to cut off power to the threateningly autonomous kitchen. As a precaution – and after consulting with an electrician – the family went out to dinner that night.

Clementine said her smart appliances have never gone off script like this before. Not even on April Fool’s Day.


Photo: gpointstudio/Adobe Stock