Hands-free cooking with a PC, Intel RealSense and Food Network

While traditional cookbooks slide into boxes in the basement or get lost on the back shelves at second-hand book stores, people are increasingly using their laptops, tablets, even their mobile phones to follow online recipes in the kitchen.

It’s a great idea. You can find thousands of recipes on the Internet, ranging from the simple (how to make a pancake) to the complex (baking a pavlova). But cooking with technology close by can often be a messy business — keyboards and touchscreens are generally not cookie dough- or spaghetti sauce-friendly.


Via a unique partnership between Food Network and Intel, kitchen chefs using digital recipes can now make minestrone soup, chicken cacciatore or homemade soft pretzels without ever touching a keyboard or computer screen. How? It’s all thanks to Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology, which allows users to use voice commands and hand gestures to control their computers without touching them.

“We have a big audience we need to serve, so we asked how can we make food more accessible and more approachable in their daily lives?” said Rich Ma, director of digital marketing for Food Network. He added that knowing what technology is being developed can help the Food Network stay at the forefront of digital innovation.

“We wanted to add functionality that can enhance people’s lives,” Ma said and you can see how Intel and Food Network can improve the way you cook by watching the video below.

Anyone using a computer with Intel RealSense technology built in can now go to a special page on the Food Network site and follow recipes using 3D motion control and voice recognition.

For example, if a recipe has an accompanying video, a user could say, “start video” or “stop video” or use their hand gestures to pause or start playback. Voice commands such as “scroll up” or “scroll down” help make page navigation much easier. And if a pastry chef was making dough, she could say “start timer” while washing her hands.


Computers embedded with Intel RealSense 3D cameras that use depth-sensing technology enable a PC to see and act the way its user does. For gesture control, the computer essentially takes a 3D recording of a user’s hand gestures and uses voice recognition to follow instructions.

For Food Network, this kind of digital capability adds a new level of access for its users. The company’s website gets nearly 40 million hits per month and the company offers programming in 150 counties.

“It’s always been our goal to make food as accessible as possible,” said Ma. “We pride ourselves in having a super loyal audience that uses our site much differently than other TV sites.”

While the website supports the network’s cable TV shows and personalities, Ma said that it’s very much a utility site, where people can get their hands dirty by following recipes, food trends and culinary culture.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich first announced the Food Network partnership at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. There, he showed that following a recipe as messy as making barbecue chicken wings can be done easily using voice or hand gestures and an Intel RealSense-enabled laptop or 2-in-1 computer.

Ali Javid, who works in product development at Intel, said the collaboration with Food Network has been a year in the making. “Internally, we underestimate how difficult it is to use a gesture where it’s simple and easy for users,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work taking RealSense middleware and cameras to turn gestures into something easy.”

Enabling Food Network users to take advantage of RealSense technology is the tip of the iceberg.

It started with Intel executive Achin Bhowmik’s efforts to make computers understand the world by seeing it as humans do. This meant finding a way for computers to see in 3D.

“If you look at almost all things biological, like humans, monkeys, dogs, eagles, snakes — everything has two eyes and three-dimensional visual perception capability,” said Bhowmik. “They use these to understand and navigate the world around them and communicate with each other.”

Giving computers these capabilities opens the doors to unprecedented experiences, including helping bring new levels of sight to the visually impaired, enabling 3D depth photography, and allowing users to immerse themselves in a richer computing experience.

For Ma, whose audience ranges from students on a budget to busy parents and culinary experts, Intel’s RealSense 3D cameras provide an added level of functionality — a way to integrate technology into cooking. And that’s something that is a part of everyone’s daily life.


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