What will the world be like in 2025? How will the kitchen of the future adapt to that world? Those are the questions that Ikea's Concept Kitchen 2025 hopes to answer. Developed in collaboration with design firm IDEO London and students from Lund and Eindhoven universities, the Concept Kitchen is designed to make people more creative about food while nudging them toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

Concept Kitchen 2025 is a student project based upon a list of assumptions about the world ten years from now. The students were posited a world of dwindling resources with much less energy available than today, and an aging population with fewer children. It's a world where where people mostly live in cities in very small flats; where the kitchen is also the living room and work space; where food, especially meat, is scarce; and where recycling is strongly encouraged, even enforced. It's also one where most people work from home, groceries are delivered immediately on demand and where computers are ubiquitous, yet almost invisible.

How accurate these assumptions are isn't important in this context, because they still act as a springboard for new ideas that could prove useful whatever the circumstances. However, there's as much social engineering as kitchen engineering here, as the Concept Kitchen 2025 urges the occupant toward accepting a drastically reduced, green lifestyle.

The technology behind the kitchen also strives to remain unobtrusively in the background and avoids the stereotypical laboratory-like future kitchens of the 1950s and '60s. Instead, it looks more like a typical Ikea starter kitchen, though with a few high-tech additions cunningly hidden as it works to create more confident cooks who waste less.

In creating the Concept Kitchen 2025, the students were told to take into account social, technological, and demographic forces that may change how people relate to food in 2025. They then spent months interviewing experiments, researching people's attitudes, and brainstorming ideas, which IDEO designers helped to turn into solid concept prototypes for display at the Ikea Temporary Kitchen at the Expo Mila in Milan.

The result of the project is a variety of designs, of which a few outstanding examples were included in the Temporary Kitchen. One of these is what looks like an ordinary, somewhat rustic, table that in 2025 will supposedly be the focus of cooking, eating, work, play, and socializing, yet works to make people more creative while cutting down on waste.

Above the table is a smart camera and projector that acts as an interactive control center. Place food on the table and the camera will identify it and project suggestions for dishes to use it, recipes, and a timer. Adjusting the timer for time available for preparation filters the recipes. Meanwhile, under the wood surface of the table are induction coils connected to computer networks that can heat cookware and recharge portable devices.

Another feature of the Concept Kitchen is the storage unit, which also looks like something out of an Ikea starter set. This is based on the idea that by 2025 weekly shopping will be a thing of the past and groceries can be delivered within minutes of placing an order (by drone we assume). Instead of fridges and cupboards, the Concept Kitchen storage system uses open shelves in a peg board arrangement that evokes a market stall.

This may seem low tech, but the wooden shelves contain hidden sensors and smart induction cooling technology while perishable foods are immediately visible, which promotes their use instead of being forgotten at the back of the fridge. Food is stored in double-walled transparent containers with RFID tags indicating the temperature they should be stored at. The induction cooling units use magnetic, stainless steel-gadolinium alloy bases in the shelves to keep the containers at the proper temperature. The same containers can be used for heating on the table. There's also low-tech terracotta containers for foods like garlic, potatoes, and carrots.

After dinner, the Thoughtful Disposal system takes over, with the householder manually sorting recycling from rubbish in a sort of home bottle bank. These are then crushed, vacuum-packed into a bio-polymer tube, and labeled for pick-up after which the householder is either credited or fined, depending on how wasteful the rubbish to recycling balance is.

To further cut down on waste, the kitchen sink empties into a composting system where the water is removed and the solids are compressed into an odorless puck, which is collected by the local government. The water is used for indoor plants. Water not suitable for plants is sent into municipal sewage pipes.

IKEA’s kitchen and dining range manager Gerry Dufresne says that the results of the study will be used in future product development.

The video below shows how the table of tomorrow might work.

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