What happens when you put a bunch of people who have worked at Apple, GoPro, Path, Google, and so on, in a room and ask them to design an oven?
The answer, apparently, is June: a countertop smart oven that will cost around $1,495 and ship next spring. It’s about the size of a microwave and designed to operate more like a smart device than a typical oven. It sits on your counter and is loaded with all the technology you might expect in a smart home device, from smarter temperature sensors to connectivity with an app on your phone.
Perhaps most notable is its built-in camera that uses deep learning technology to determine what kind of food you are trying to make and then give suggestions based on that. It also comes with a temperature probe that will send alerts to your phone. The typical cooking example Van Horn gave in our conversation was a steak, which he said previously required a thermometer or cutting into it to determine if it’s cooked. (This isn’t actually entirely true — you can press down on the steak and determine how cooked it is based on how firm it is.)
“You take the steak, put salt and pepper on it, put in the core temperature thermometer, plug [the thermometer] into the oven and keep the steak in the oven, and by the time the door is closed it’s smart enough to know that it’s a steak,” Van Horn said. “It knows how much it weighs and its starting core temperature. Depending on your preference, it can predict a time curve that leads it into the medium rare, and it sends my phone a push notification when it’s done. If you’re anxious, you can use a streaming feature which allows you to get a live video feed of your food.”
The top of the oven serves as a digital scale. The actual oven is heated by carbon fiber (electric, not gas), which June chief technology officer Nikhil Bhogal says will help maintain a steady cooking temperature. There are four broiling elements on the top, two baking elements on the bottom, and two convection fans that work to maintain a steady temperature throughout the oven.
“It’s always surrounding your food with hot air,” Bhogal said. “What’s cooked in the corner will always taste like what’s cooked the middle. We spent a lot of time adding precise temperature controls, and that’s not usually seen in this space. We spent a lot of time fine-tuning the cavity. We used a cavity which helps with heat, we fine tuned our insulation, and even the door itself.”
The two had previously worked at Path, which recently sold to DaumKakaou. When deciding on what company they wanted to start, they found themselves cooking multiple meals in the evenings — with a lime Cornish game hen being the final meal that sealed the deal. The product design was done by Ammunition, which designed products like Leeo, the Lyft glowing moustache and the Beats Solo headphones.
“When you’re brainstorming about this, once we started thinking about how technology is changing the home — and you see that with Nest, HomeKit — it’s hard to imagine that if the home has changed in the next 10 to 20 years, the kitchen is going to stay the same,” Bhogal said. “It’s not going to be like Mad Men any more, once you believe it’s gonna change then it’s easy to imagine what kind of change there will be.”
To be sure, this isn’t an exact replica — or substitute — of an oven unit. Many have ovens with stove tops as a single unit, especially in places with smaller apartments like New York City. Van Horn said that while the oven won’t entirely replace a stove top or a larger traditional oven entirely, it’s going to do quite a bit as soon as it’s turned on in your home.
“The way we see it, day one it replaces all your toasting needs — you don’t need a toaster oven,” Van Horn said. “And for your oven use cases, we see it becoming your primary cooking tool. From ease of use or efficiency, we expect most users to use their big oven when they’re entertaining a very large group, and in terms of a stove top we’re able to make things so easy we’re taking away stove top usage. It’s so easy just to put them into a june and put a temp probe in and do something else and wait for the notification to come in versus hovering over the stove.”
The first units will ship in 2016 to customers who put down a $95 deposit. June is located in San Francisco and currently has 22 employees.