Ex-NASA boffin dreams of PREDATOR-ish tech in humble microwaves
It's 2015 – why don't we already have this?
A former engineer on the Curiosity Mars rover team has come up with a bright idea to improve the aging microwave cooker: thermal imaging, inspired by the Predator franchise, to check when food is done.
“The microwave has pretty much remained unchanged since it’s inception in 1967,” said Mark Rober in a vid promoting his idea – and it's just an idea. It doesn't exist yet; there's no sign of an actual prototype.
“That’s a shame, because there are quite a few sucky things about it. Basically, unless you stop the microwave and pull your food out to inspect it, there’s no way to tell if it’s done just right,” he adds.
Rober’s Heat Map Microwave uses a thermal camera in the top of the nuker to constantly check on the temperature of the food, pointing out the cold spots that can cause food poisoning. The front of the microwave would be replaced with a screen to show the thermal results, and possibly be used for browsing the internet while you wait.
The camera could also shorten the cooking time by automatically switching off the microwave once the food it is cooking reaches optimal temperature. The thermal camera to do this is cheap, Rober said, and it would be an easy engineering hack to build one.
Rober also wants to connect the microwave and its camera to a smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This would allow users to monitor the food’s progress and add cooking time as needed without needing to stand over the device.
He said that he searched for a patent on such a technology and couldn’t find one, so registered his own. He’s not looking for money, but has set up a petition to gauge the level of interest before bringing in investors after this first year of development work.
Rober is something of a wacky inventor and has had a varied career since leaving NASA. In 2013 he came up with a novel form of Halloween costume that showed a hole straight through the wearer’s body by strapping iPad2’s facing forward and back and linking them via FaceTime.
While the microwave is a cute idea, the heavy marketing from ebook distributor Audible in the above video made us wince: like the steam rising from a freshly nuked mac'n'cheese, this gear is vaporware and may never come to anything, like hoverboards from Back to the Future.
That said, interest in the Predator microwave seems high. Rober claims over 20,000 people have signed his petition in the 48 hours since he started promoting the scheme. El Reg bets he could get more if he added an Alien chestburster popping out the top when the food is done. ®
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