Edge of Innovation

Food Network Helps Everyone Cook Using 3D Camera Technology

Deb Miller Landau iQ Managing Editor

Food Network and Intel RealSense technology allow people to use hand gestures and voice commands to control their computers in the kitchen.

While traditional cookbooks slide into boxes in the basement or to the back shelves at the used book stores, more people are using their laptops or tablets to read recipes while cooking in the kitchen. But this can be a messy concept, since keyboards and touchscreens are generally not amenable to cookie dough or spaghetti sauce.

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Via a unique partnership between the Food Network and Intel, kitchen chefs using digital recipes can now make minestrone soup, chicken cacciatore or homemade soft pretzels without ever touching a keyboard or computer screen, thanks to 3D camera technology that allows users to use their voice and hand gestures to control their computers.

“We have a big audience we need to serve, so we asked how can we make food more accessible and more approachable in their daily lives?” said Rich Ma, director of digital marketing for the Food Network. He said knowing what technology is being developed can help the Food Network stay at the forefront in the digital space.

“We wanted to add functionality that can enhance people’s lives,” he said.

Anyone using a computer with Intel RealSense technology can now go to a special page on the Food Network site and follow recipes by using 3D motion control and voice recognition.

For example, said Ma, if a recipe has an accompanying video, a user could say, “start video” or “stop video” or use their hand gestures to indicate pause or playback. Voice commands such as “scroll up” or “scroll down” help make page navigation easy. And if a pastry chef was making dough, say, she could say, “start timer” while washing her hands.

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Computers embedded with Intel RealSense 3D cameras that use depth-sensing technology enable the PC to see and act the way its user does. For gesture control, the computer essentially takes a 3D recording of a user’s hand gestures and uses voice recognition to follow instructions.

For the Food Network, this kind of digital capability adds a new level of access to its users. The company’s website gets nearly 40 million hits a month, and the Food Network offers programming in 150 counties.

“It’s always been our goal to make food as accessible as possible,” said Ma. “We pride ourselves in having a super loyal audience that uses our site much differently than other TV sites.”

While the website supports the network’s TV shows and personalities, Ma said that it’s very much a utility site, where people get their hands dirty by following recipes, food trends and culinary culture.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich first announced the Food Network partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. There, he showed that following a recipe as messy as making chicken wings can be done easily using the voice and hand gestures with a Intel RealSense technology-enabled laptop or 2-in-1 computer.

Ali Javid, who works in product development at Intel, said the collaboration with the Food Network has been a year in the making. “Internally, we underestimate how difficult it is to use a gesture where it’s simple and easy for users,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work taking RealSense middleware and cameras to turn gestures into something easy.”

Enabling Food Network users to take advantage of Intel RealSense technology is the tip of the iceberg.

It started with Intel executive Achin Bhowmik’s effort to spearhead the development to make computers more understanding, which meant finding a way for them to see in 3D.

“If you look at almost all things biological, like humans, monkeys, dogs, eagles, snakes — everything has two eyes and three-dimensional visual perception capability,” said Bhowmik. “They use these to understand and navigate the world around them and communicate with each other.”

Giving computers these capabilities opens the doors to unprecedented experiences, including helping bring new levels of sight to the visually impaired, enabling 3D depth photography, and allowing users to immerse themselves in the computing experience.

For Ma, whose audience spans from students on a budget to busy parents and culinary experts, Intel RealSense technology provides an added level of functionality, a way to integrate technology into cooking — something that’s a part of everyone’s daily life.

From now until June 30th, enter to win one of ten $500 shopping sprees at Microsoft Retail Stores, where you can see a demo of Intel RealSense technology in action.

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