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June Intelligent Oven

June Intelligent Oven

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A smart oven that thinks like a chef.

To accomplish the magic trick, June has a camera system built into the very top of the oven that pulls double duty. It’s running computer vision algorithms on your dishes to identify them, but it also lets you check in on what’s happening inside your oven with your tablet or smartphone. How does it tell the difference between two pieces of meat that look nearly the same? It’s all about the tiny details, says June’s co-founder and CTO, Nikhil Bhogal. "Natural foods all have micro-textures, which look different upon closer inspection," he tells me. "With pork versus beef, they both have different-looking fat patterns. That’s what we train the computer to do."

 

That system is combined with some juggling of the fans and heating elements to cook food in specific ways. Pop two sides of a bagel in, and the camera figures out not only that it’s a bagel, but also which side is up. It then adjusts its six heating coils and two fans to make the tops crispy and the bottoms a little softer. The same system works with June’s program for a roasted chicken so that it will blast the top of the dish at the very end of cooking to make sure the skin is crispy while the rest of the bird isn’t overcooked. The company is trying to build these kinds of programs itself, but also plans to let users program their own special cooking cycles on their phones and tablets, These can be shared with other June owners so you can begin to crowdsource ideal cooking patterns.

Bhogal was most recently at Path building its iOS app, but previously spent five years at Apple working on its camera technologies. "If you’ve ever taken a picture or recorded a video, done FaceTime, or taken a panorama, you’ve used a lot of my code," he says. He left Path with Van Horn near the end of 2013, and the pair has been working on this ever since. Along the way, they’ve raised $7 million in funding led by the Foundry Group, and hired 22 engineers — about half of whom were previously at Apple. June is headquartered in a house in San Francisco’s posh Pacific Heights neighborhood. Van Horn says the spot was picked almost immediately for its massive and well-furnished kitchen, which has become the main testing area. They’ve also assembled a makeshift lab on the second floor where other prototypes are being trained to recognize food.