The most CES thing ever, but in a good way.
I take a sip of a cold-brew coffee that's just been spinning in a tall hole-peppered machine for a few minutes. It's ice cold. It has no ice. This is the work of the Juno Chiller, a tabletop machine that turns hot things cold.
A year ago, I flew out to Matrix Industries, the thermoelectric technology startup that made the Juno, and saw a lot of wild things, including a body heat and solar-powered smartwatch, and the promise of little devices that could pull small amounts of electrical charge from ambient air temperature changes. I was fascinated by the possibilities. In the corner, I also saw a prototype for a beverage chiller, something that Matrix's founders saw as a microwave of sorts for chilling things. This is what the Juno became.
In New York, a few weeks before this year's CES in Las Vegas, I tried out the Juno in person, not knowing what to expect of it.
Why a beverage chiller? Does the world need a fancy wine and soda cooler that's the size of a toaster? I have no idea. But the Juno Chiller isn't that expensive: It's $299 shipping later this year (that's about £230 or AU$430), on sale at $199 for early preorders. It can adjust its temperature-chilling levels and it seemed to really work. It needs 2 minutes for a 12-ounce can, or 5 minutes for a bottle of wine.
The Juno Chiller is using a standard idea for thermoelectric cooling that's been around for decades (the Peltier effect), but Matrix promises that its thermoelectrics can do it faster than anyone else in a way that's practical enough for home use.
Matrix co-founder and CTO Douglas Tham is particularly excited about the technology's potential to replace traditional refrigeration that can be a lot more energy-intensive and environmentally unfriendly. The Juno Chiller just uses a water bath inside and its thermoelectric tech to spin the beverage gently and pull heat out. In my demos, the spinning didn't cause soda cans to fizz or explode at all. The Juno seems to have been designed in the spirit of Amazon Echo-inspired kitchen gear: Its simple, clever touch interface has a glowing LED strip that shows temperature-cooling status like a timer, shifting from red to blue.
Matrix Industries sees the Juno Chiller as being a more versatile device that could also be used to mix cocktails or juices or other recipes that need chilling without ice. Whether or not the world needs a microwave for cooling things, I have no idea. But if something like the Juno Chiller could be installed in a car beverage holder, or if coworking spaces could have something like this instead of an ice dispenser, who knows? Maybe a serious wine person would consider one for their basement wine cave. I'm not a serious wine person, but the Juno Chiller isn't as crazy as you'd think.
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Last year, Matrix's founders suggested that future convenience stores could instantly cool beverages instead of storing them in giant refrigerated cases, or vending machines could dispense cold drinks on demand. That makes sense to me. Matrix's aspirations go beyond beverages, too, to cooling all sorts of things. It could even lead to larger-scale efficient refrigerators. We'll see if the Juno, or other devices, will take us there.