Living with Technology Page 5

idea central 3 idea central 4In the Pervasive Computing Lab's kitchen, almost everything is monitored and controlled. Electronic tags embedded in food packages provide a list of ingredients and cooking instruc­tions that can be sent to the smart oven. Cookie monsters beware: even the countertop is part of the network. Pick up a tagged item - like a bag of Oreos - and a signal can be sent to a monitoring station's display, anywhere in the world. The refrigerator's least impressive feature is its ability to keep food fresh. Its embedded touchscreen, which can control mundane tasks like turning on the heat and closing the blinds, can also be used as a Web browser. Messages can be written on the screen using a stylus or just a finger. When the intended recipient accesses the network, the message is displayed on his or her screen, wherever it is. And a camera mounted inside the fridge lets you see what's there. You can then use the screen to put together a shopping list. While this saves energy, it frustrates the desire to open the door in the hope that chocolate cake has magically appeared.

- E.T.