Is the Future of Your Kitchen Touchless?

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Touchless trash bins and faucets could complement the connected home of the future.

Much to the relief of germophobes everywhere, the future of the American kitchen could quite possibly be touchless. Many of the products needed to “touchlessly” navigate your kitchen are already available, and product innovation may trend even further toward remote operation and hands-off interaction.

With a series of products from iTouchless—a company that specializes in all sorts of hands-off gadgets and appliances—consumers can remove a moldy banana from a sealed container, flip open their trash bin and toss the item, turn on their faucets, activate the soap dispenser, and wash their hands—all without touching a single device.

Using fairly basic motion sensor technology, iTouchless has produced a line of trash cans, containers, soap dispensers, and faucet-mount adapters that all operate through a simple wave of the hand over the device.

While some of the products feel a bit cheap—they're built from a flimsy polycarbonate—the idea behind them is innovative. With sensor technologies becoming smaller, more affordable, and more readily available, there’s no telling how hands-free interaction will work its way into the modern home.

Another company, Israel's PointGrab, has been experimenting with gesture recognition for remote operation of every appliance in your kitchen, as well as lamps, TVs, cameras, and clocks. The technology works with pretty much everything with a circuit board.

Students at UC Berkeley recently developed a system that pairs Google Glass with home appliances—allowing for Glass-based, hands-free operation of connected devices. And then there’s Fin, a thumb ring that reads precise movements over your palm as directions to various connected appliances and technologies.

The impetus behind these products is the same: to lessen the need for physical interaction with technology.

While a technological step up from iTouchless, the impetus behind these products is the same: to lessen the need for physical interaction with technology. The most obvious benefit is hygiene. Many of the physical devices we touch on a day-to-day basis—especially plastics—are riddled with disease-transmitting germs, not to mention harmful chemicals like BPA.

But there’s also the question of whether or not touchless products are actually an improvement. There’s serious value to be found in a touchless faucet or soap dispenser, the former of which has been most successfully demonstrated in the Moen Motionsense no-touch faucet.

But considering the laggy response time of some motion sensors, it’s easy to imagine yourself skipping the touchless operation of a container or trash bin. After all, the act of opening a bin or container is so quick and intuitive that a touchless alternative would have to be near-prescient in its response time to avoid becoming a nuisance.