The kitchen is a rich mine for startups trying to come up with "new" gadgets that are right on the cusp of being over-engineered. In that vein, a company called Brava is launching a countertop oven that cooks food quickly and thoroughly using visible and infrared light, and if you cut through the marketing faff it looks like there might just be a useful product hiding under there.
Brava's new flagship product – which is also called the Brava – looks like a decent enough device. Measuring 11.3 x 14.1 x 16.7 in (28.8 x 35.8 x 42.5 cm), it's about the size of a regular old microwave oven, and it kind of works in a similar way. Food goes in, and a short time later it comes out cooked.
In this case, the heating element isn't microwave radiation but a mix of infrared and visible light (or "Pure Light Cookingtm technology") from six crystal bulbs. This apparently allows the Brava to heat up to 500° F (260° C) in less than a second, cutting down on overall cook times and making the device more energy efficient than conventional ovens.
Unlike a microwave, the Bravia can apparently sear the outside of the meal while thoroughly cooking the inside. The software controls behind the system are also claimed to continuously monitor the temperature and accordingly adjust the lamps in real time, to keep from over- or under-cooking. If you'd rather manually check on it, you don't need to open the door – there's a 5-MP camera inside so you can view a livestream via the oven's 5-in screen or through the Brava smartphone app.
Along with the user-controlled settings, the Brava has some preset recipes, so you can tell the device that there's a whole chicken in there and it will roast it according to a built-in routine.
So far, so good. Although infrared ovens have been around for decades, Brava's Brava seems like a well-designed device that's just shy of being over-engineered, no matter how often the company refers to it as a "dynamic culinary engine" that offers a "fully seamless cooking experience."
But here's where it starts to smell of Silicon Valley-itis: Brava has a premium subscription service where users can order meal kits, ingredients and recipes from partnering farms to whip up in the oven. While that's not necessarily a bad idea in itself, it definitely seems like it's heading down the path of "one-off hardware purchase plus regular consumables" that startups love to keep customers tied to.
One of the most infamous examples of this kind of business model is Juicero, a US$400 juicer that was apparently built with 400 custom parts that apply four tons of force in order to squeeze proprietary bags of juice. The company went bankrupt just a few months after Bloomberg reporters discovered that you can just squeeze the bags with your bare hands.
Still, the Brava itself seems like a decent-enough product, even if it isn't as groundbreaking as the company's hype claims it to be. In any case, it's far more useful than a toaster that cooks messages into your bread.
Brava is currently taking preorders for the Brava, starting at the eye-watering price of $995. If all goes to plan, it's expected to ship in November.
You can check out a promotional introductory Brava video below.
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