4 features we want to see in an Amazon Alexa microwave
My Lean Cuisines are ready for some voice assistance.
Ashlee Clark ThompsonAssociate Editor
Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.
Word on the internet is that Amazon has cooked up an Alexa-powered microwave. CNBC reported Monday that Amazon will sell this small appliance (along with at least seven more devices) by the end of the year. Digest rumors with a healthy amount of side eye -- there's a chance that we'll never see an Alexa microwave or any of the other devices Amazon is allegedly working on. But let's consider for a moment that these rumors could be true, and the online retail giant starts selling its own smart microwave. Here are the features I'd like to see if these Alexa microwave rumors pan out:
OK, this one is a given when you consider that this rumored microwave is powered by Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated, internet-connected digital assistant. But the inclusion of Alexa in a microwave is about more than yelling at your microwave to reheat your leftovers: Your microwave could become the command center of your smart home. You could ask the microwave to do tasks that other Alexa-powered devices can do, such as give you the weather, control other smart home devices or play music, among a host of other commands. Smart home devices that moonlight as fully operational Alexa devices are growing in popularity. You can find Alexa in smoke and CO detectors, light switches and thermostats, so a microwave with built-in Alexa doesn't seem too far-fetched.
There are already a couple of microwaves, specifically from GE Appliances and Whirlpool, that work with apps that include a bar code reader. With this feature, you use your phone to scan the bar codes of your packaged meal, and the app will send the correct cook time and settings to the microwave. This is still a relatively new addition to microwaves, and it hasn't become a must-have upgrade. But I'd expect Amazon to jump on the bar code-scanning bandwagon with an Alexa-powered microwave.
Watch this: Despite Alexa, GE's Scan-to-Cook microwave isn't very smart
Easy food ordering
A product from Amazon is going to tie back to the online retailer in some way. I expect that this microwave would be enabled with Amazon Dash Replenishment so it would automatically order more of your favorite packaged food items. Here's how I see this working: Let's say you have been using the aforementioned bar code scanner every time you heated up some Easy Mac, so the microwave could keep count of how many times you eat this dish. And if the microwave is tied to your Amazon account, it will know how many Easy Mac packages you ordered. So when you get near the end of your box of macaroni and powdered cheese, the microwave would be able to automatically order more from Amazon, assuming you gave it permission.
This one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. Maybe Amazon's new small appliance is more of a countertop cooker than a microwave. That would put it in a category with the June Intelligent Oven, a Wi-Fi-enabled countertop oven with built-in cameras and software that recognizes the food you place inside and cooks it automatically based on what it sees. Though we've seen Whirlpool dip a toe into food recognition, the June is in a unique category on its own. It would be interesting to see Amazon try to incorporate this kind of technology into a kitchen product.