At CES: The GE Kitchen Hub Is the Stupidest Kitchen Idea Since, Well, Ever

©. GE appliances

This Treehugger has called the kitchen exhaust fan the most screwed up, badly designed, inappropriately used appliance in your home, and that was before I saw the new Kitchen Hub from GE Appliances, just released at CES. It combines a range hood with a 27 inch touchscreen and multiple cameras.

GE says that it "lets you manage your smart home from the busiest room in your house, thanks to U+Connect. Brew your coffee, lower your thermostat and check your calendar from one system. And with the Google Assistant built in, you can ask Google to lend a helping hand."

Or, you could just watch a movie while you cook. New Atlas notes that you can "Netflix and grill."

GE Appliances first showed the prototype at last year's CES and are back this year for the launch of a real product, which is surprising, since in that year surely someone might have told them what an incredibly bad idea this is. Let me count the ways:

1. It Sits Too Low

kitchen with kitchen hub

© GE Appliances/ Kitchen hub

The bottom of the unit is actually lower than the bottom of the kitchen cabinets, which look to be the standard 18 inches from the counter. Over electric ranges it should be a minimum of 20 to 24 inches and over a gas range as shown here, 24 to 30 inches. In many building codes, the legal minimum is 30 inches, but they cannot do that because then the screen is too high to look straight into.

2. It's Dangerously Distracting

Kitchen hub

© GE Appliances/ Woman looking at screen instead of burning gas and cooking food

This woman is stirring food on a gas range while blithely looking straight ahead into a video screen. She should be looking at what she is doing, which is cooking food over open flame. This is not a time for multi-tasking. You should be looking at the food, not the damn screen.

3. It Might Attract Children to the Stove

kitchen hub with child

© GE Appliances/ Child reaching across top of gas range which fortunately is not on

There are some who do not believe that you should put a stove with knobs on the front in your home, because children can reach them, turn them on and start a fire. You certainly do not want your child reaching for a touch screen television that is on top of a stove, perhaps the dumbest and most dangerous place I can think of putting anything. New Atlas notes that "the system promises broad interconnectivity with other smart home products, so ideally it can function as a central hub for controlling all your connected appliances, from the home thermostat to lighting and security cameras." But this is the last place in the home where you want everyone in the family reaching all day.

4. It's Bound to Get Filthy

gas stove at home

Lloyd Alter/ our schmutz and grease covered working stove at home/CC BY 2.0

The reason for having an exhaust hood is to capture the products of combustion and grease that come from cooking. On our gas stove at home, which projects out from the face of the counters a full eight inches to catch more stuff, the face of the hood is still covered in grease and has to be cleaned with strong grease-busting cleaners on a regular basis. This Kitchen Hub will be a lousy exhaust hood that won't catch much of anything when cooking on the front burners. Instead, all that grease and schmutz will stick to the screen. And after someone in the family goes to change the smart thermostat or whatever they are doing on this central hub, they are going to have to wash their hands. Blech.

5. One-Stop-Shop Gadgets Are Unreliable


Saturday Night Live/Screen capture

There is a design philosophy, Open Building, where "the principle is to maintain a separation between the different aspects of the building in order to be able to make repairs and do upgrades with a minimum of interference with other elements of the building." This is also what I call the Shimmer syndrome, named after the product pitched on Saturday Night Live by Chevy Chase: "It's a floor wax! No, it's a dessert topping!”- combining two contradictory uses and doing neither particularly well. Mechanical units like exhaust fans last for years in relatively harsh conditions of heat, moisture and schmutz. One simply doesn't mash it together with delicate touchscreens which have a much shorter life, particularly if you put them in such an idiotic location.

Final Thoughts

In summary, this will be an almost useless exhaust hood, a greasy and schmutz covered touchscreen in an incredibly dangerous location, particularly over the open flame of a gas range as shown. It is astonishing to me that this made it out of 2018 CES, let alone back again in 2019.

What is also amusing is that GE Appliances is now owned by Chinese appliance giant Haier, which makes lots of exhaust hoods (the one shown is from another company) that cope with the huge amounts of smoke and steam that comes from Chinese cooking. I would have thought that one of their owners might have looked at this GE kitchen hub and asked, "Are you nuts?"