Imagine virtually fishing, hunting or gathering your food from a hologram, then having the real goods delivered to your door. Or having your refrigerator offer dinner suggestions based on which ingredients you have on hand, then alerting your oven to preheat based on your chosen recipe. Perhaps you might prefer to come home to a cocktail already prepared by your automated bartender, confident it not only knows how you like your martini but also when you've reached a sensible limit.
All that may sound like a trend forecaster's dream, but, trust us, it's happening in 2015 — or maybe soon thereafter.
Online apps and programs: You may not have a smart appliance in your kitchen, but according to a survey conducted by NextMarket, at least 58% of us use mobile technology there at least some of the time. Popular programs and apps allow searching for, collecting and storing recipes and even generating grocery lists in real time based on what you are currently using. Yummly searches recipes from favorite websites, generates shopping lists and partners with Instacart for delivery to your door within an hour. Grocery IQ builds shopping lists from barcodes or from spoken instructions and even searches for coupons.
Smart appliances and gadgets: Major manufacturers of large kitchen appliances are entering the market, offering smart refrigerators and ovens that will track contents and expiration dates, incorporate cooking applications and allow remote operation. LG's Smart ThinQ refrigerator offers dinner suggestions based on what you have in it and then talks to its companion oven to set the precise cooking time and temperature. In the future? The same company has been working on a "health manager" feature to offer recipe suggestions based on your age, gender, weight, height and body mass index. It will even generate weekly meal plans based on personal profiles and provide recipes for each dish. Pure Imagination's Perfect Bake system, with a digital scale and app, measures ingredients from your recipes by weight and will automatically adjust if you overpour.
3-D food printers: The first commercial microwave oven took decades to become popular. The same might be true for the 3-D printer. While a handful of printers are commercially available now, similar issues of cost, size and limitations are being addressed. Choc Edge's Choc Creator will create three-dimensional chocolates you design yourself. The F3D prototype designed by students at the Imperial College London will print a pizza dough and then the topping and bake them using the same cooking technology as Hasbro's Easy-Bake Oven.
On the drawing board: These ideas may seem far out, but they're already being worked on. A wristband microwave that collects body heat you can use to warm a cup of coffee. A smart knife that tests food's freshness, nutrient content and bacteria level when you cut into it and keeps it fresher by infusing it with negative ions. How about a gel patch you place on your forehead that gives you the tastes and smells of favorite food memories, no matter what's on your plate? In the future, you could make a raw carrot taste like the best cheeseburger you ever had.