British citizens who are prone to under- or overcooking food in a microwave oven now have a new option: Leave the work to the oven. Sharp Corp. is giving British consumers first crack at a microwave it makes in Wales with a "nose" that knows when the food is done, then shuts itself off.
Actually, the nose doesn't work by smelling the food's aroma. Instead, it sniffs the humidity and temperature in the oven. These readings are fed to a neural network--a type of computer circuitry modeled on the brain--that has been trained to spot the combination of temperature and humidity that signals when different kinds of food are cooked. In Japan, Sharp offers a more advanced model that techno-happy Japanese cooks can train to prepare foods to their individual taste. Sharp hasn't yet decided when this capability will be introduced in other markets, and no date has been set for selling the sniffer oven in the U.S.