Sharp’s Interactive Cooking System Set
Sharp Corp. introduces its Interactive Cooking System microwave oven. The microwave oven tells consumers, step by step, how to cook a specific food. The microwave asks consumers the type of food they wish to cook, then provides advice, through a seven character display screen, on additional steps to take to cook the food properly. Sharp is expected to begin shipping the units in Mar 1995. Prices for the Interactive Cooking System line of microwave ovens range from $269.95 to $349.95.
This is Sharp’s solution to technology overload.. a microwave oven that tells you, seep by step, how to cook a specific food.
Using a microchip and a seven-character display, the machine guides the user through its functions and offers additional information. It will ask the type and weight of the food to be cooked, then reveal at a touch of the Custom Help key that fresh vegetables, for example, should take an added tablespoon of water per cup. It might advise afterward to “let stand covered.”
“It’s foolproof,” said Patricia Koester Smith, a market-development manager. “This isn’t sensor technology. It’s an advanced interactive display.”
The rationale is: consumers buy microwave ovens for speed and convenience, but few read their operating manuals. It’s easy to get intimidated and ignore most of the many features on an oven.
“We met with our customer-information people,” related Anne Howard, the Appliance division’s director of marketing. “We asked what kind of problems do people have [with microwaves]. What can we do before they take it back to their stores?”
In addition, noted Terri Siebert, assistant product-training manager, fewer schools teach traditional cooking these days in home-economics classes, and fewer young people know how to cook properly. The Interactive Cooking System “is designed for them to learn to cook.”
“I like to think of it as an ACM.. an automatic cooking machine,” added Smith.
According to Sharp, the custom key and seven characters are unprecedented in the industry. A small “help” on the display advises the Custom Help pad can be tapped for a demonstration mode (advantageous for selling at retail and for learning at home); automatic starting@ child lock; audible signal; customized programming; a choice of English, Spanish or French, pounds or kilograms, and all these little dues for better cooking of seven foods under CompuCook and another seven under Snacks A Reheat (“place on paper towel,” “use large bowl,” “turn food over,” etc.).
Each of the 14 food entries can be programmed from one to six serving options, explained Siebert, and each can be adjusted for more or less time.
Seven characters in place of six m not seem important, but they offer more information at a glance and fewer hyphenated words. The display freezes words for a second or so, rather than rolling them right to left. Siebert pointed out that older people especially might miss something on a moving scroll:”clock” after a blink or through bifocals becomes “lock” and a message is misinterpreted.
Reportedly the greater variety of options includes separate settings for @round meat, chicken pieces and steaks; weights in 0.1-pound increments; three selections for dinner-plate sizes; choices for the number of cups for rice. And if a mistake occurs, a specific prompt appears (“error quantity”).
Even the power level can be called up: “P-70” means the machine is running at 70 percent.
Smith said Sharp began showing the ovens to key national accounts in the past month, and to favorable response. The company finally decided to exhibit the line at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month. An interactive logo also is in the works.
Shipments were expected to begin in March. Models R-5A87 will feature 1.6 cubic feet and a stone-gray cabinet; R-5A97, with the same capacity, will be in white-on-white. Their suggested retail price is $349.95 apiece.
April availability was planned for the R-3A87 (stone) and R-3A97 (all-white), each with 0.9 cubic feet and a suggested retail of $269.95. June was projected for models R-4A87 (stone) and R-4A97 (white-on-white), each with 1.2 cubic feet and a $299.95 tag. Smith said the initial introductions will be among Sharp’s most popular models, with sensor units likely to follow later in 1995 and the rest of line perhaps in 1996.