The kitchen of the tomorrow is so tantalizing that it seems everyone in tech wants to build it. In a way, it presents a perfect microcosm of how artificial intelligence and ambient computing could change every aspect of your life. Refrigerators that tell you when your eggs go bad. Augmented-reality cooking tips right there on the counter. Recipe recommendations based on your dietary restrictions, seasonal veggies, and that tuna you really ought to use before it turns. Every ingredient in perfect proportion, with suggestions for the best ways to cook them. And, just go with me here, food that cooks itself?
Pinterest may not sell a camera-equipped fridge, but the platform is rolling out futuristic new tools for cooks of all types. Its Lens camera-search tool, which lets you point your phone at something to find information and related pins, now works with food. Snap a picture of a cucumber and jump to that tomato-cucumber-basil salad recipe a little faster. Eating out? Take a pic of your meal to generate recipes and make it at home. The computer vision isn’t perfect, but it seems good enough to recognize the waffles in front of you.
Pinterest hopes to integrate Lens technology in a variety of ways, like helping you match outfits or find cool stuff for your living room. The food search offers a nice example of how useful computer vision tech can be—and why companies like Google, which just announced a similar product also called Lens, are developing the same thing. You don’t even have to know what you’re looking at to search for it; just hold up that weird, spiny fruit to the camera and let Pinterest tell you it’s a durian, it that it makes for a surprisingly delicious cheesecake even if it stinks.
Pinterest has always been a huge trove of recipes and tips—the company says it catalogues more than 15 billion food and drink ideas, and food represents the biggest search topic. Now it offers a far more optimized way to cook and eat. You can filter search results, so you see only gluten-free options or recipes with almond milk. You can filter by cooking time, or search with what you have in your kitchen. If you have 30 minutes, went paleo last year, and want to use that ginger you bought last month, Pinterest can now find what you need much faster. Once you’ve finished cooking, you can mark a recipe as “Tried,” and even add a review and rating.
Recipe apps are a dime a dozen, but few seem to really consider how people actually cook, or how technology can fit into the process. These updates make Pinterest a little smarter, and at least in my home should bring some resolution to the seemingly never-ending question: What should we have for dinner? I don’t know, but I know we have turkey. At least, I think that’s turkey. Pinterest should know.