For here, to go, or any of the above at the push of a button – no need to print a menu when your food itself can be printed out right in front of you. Is computerized food production the final frontier for futuristic home design? Mass production has transformed virtually every modern domicile-related industry, from house building to furniture construction – and now, innovative technologies are promising use the finest gourmet culinary delights straight from a household machine we can keep right in our kitchens.
More than providing the capacity to simply replicate existing edibles, there is nothing to slow the discovery of new mixes, textures, consistencies – the creation of new combinations the chef of today has not yet even dreamed of. Only time will tell if people will greedily hoard programs like secret family recipes or if open source will rule the world of digitized cuisine.
3D printers are already becoming nearly commonplace, with cheap do-it-yourself versions available with free plans and a few hundred dollars in materials – some can even self-replicate, creating infinite clones. Molecular food printers seem a little less far-fetched in that light. After all, cooking and assembling an edible dish should not be all that different, in theory or technology, from creating a working machine or otherwise complex three-dimensional object.
Adding computerization to the process means the results can also be calibrated for particular dietary needs, from food allergies to fat contents, as well as flavor preferences. Teleconferences across the planet could suddenly be joined by shared meals generated simultaneously in each location. Your meals could be cooked remotely by iPhone, ready to eat when you arrive home. The entire market could shift from frozen and prepared foods back to raw materials.
So what is the role of the gourmet chef or amateur cook in a world populated by food-making machines that can mimic the best of our culinary experts? Likely the shift will not be as dramatic as some die-hard futurists expect: after all, people still play human chess despite capable computer opponents – and hand-crafted artisan furniture still costs more than the mass-produced alternatives. Still, it will be something to behold when we can whip up entire high-quality and flavor-filled meals with the push of a few buttons. (Featured designs above from MIT, Nico Klaeber and PopUpCity)