Software-Defined Cooking using a Microwave Oven (MobiCom'19)

Despite widespread popularity, today's microwave ovens are limited in their cooking capabilities, given that they heat food blindly, resulting in a non-uniform and unpredictable heating distribution. This work presents SDC (software-defined cooking), a low-cost closed-loop microwave oven system that aims to heat the food in a software-defined thermal trajectory. SDC achieves this through a novel high-resolution heat sensing and actuation system that uses microwave-safe components to augment existing microwaves. SDC first senses thermal gradient by using arrays of neon lamps that are charged by the Electromagnetic (EM) field a microwave produces. SDC then modifies the EM-field strength to desired levels by accurately moving food on a programmable turntable towards sensed hot and cold spots. To create a more skewed arbitrary thermal pattern, SDC further introduces two types of programmable accessories: microwave shield and susceptor. The work designs and implements one experimental test-bed by modifying a commercial off-the-shelf microwave oven. Evaluation shows that SDC can programmatically create temperature deltas at a resolution of 21 degrees with a spatial resolution of 3 cm without accessories and 183 degrees with the help of accessories. It also further demonstrates how a SDC-enabled microwave can be enlisted to perform unexpected cooking tasks: cooking meat and fat in bacon discriminatively and heating milk uniformly.

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