General Electric: The Evolution of Home Technologies

NewHomeSource chats with Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design at General Electric, about design, aesthetics and the user experience with their new and exciting home technologies.


What we found is that the younger consumer has a different sense of aesthetics than, say, an older consumer. So their circle of influence varies from automotive design, where they shop like at IKEA or Target, to the type of electronics they surround themselves in the living room. It’s that overall impression that we wanted to translate into the kitchen.

Preserving your food is what a refrigerator’s all about, so how can lighting aid in preserving your food? We created this temperature controlled drawer with five settings. At each setting, we give you visual feedback in the form of a color light. So meat at 34 degrees, steps to beverages and you see this beautiful blue color for 34 degrees beverages, produce the light goes green and the temperature’s set at 36 degrees, cheeses at 38 degrees is this nice aqua color, then, finally, citrus set at 40 degrees and the light goes this beautiful lavender color. And with the right temperature, your food will last longer. On the inside of the fridge, we replaced the old incandescent lightbulb with new technology. We’ve introduced seven LED pinpoint lights sources on the inside of the fridge to present the food in a clear, crisp fashion. Along with the enhanced lighting we added to the inside of the refrigerator, we also added lighting to the outside of the fridge. We created this little nightlight that illuminates the ice water dispenser and creates a nice glow in the kitchen in the evening.

So beyond our visual identity associated with our brands, we’re now thinking about what we call “sensory design.” That’s the senses associated with our product and the product interaction. It can be illumination, sight, it can be touch with the controls, as well as sound and the sounds our products produce. So what we’ve developed is is basically a soundtrack for each one of our four brands. For example, this is our Monogram brand soundtrack, Monogram being our high-end product line.

[classical music plays]

Appropriate to the product line itself, it’s a very elegant, classy, rich soundtrack. Almost Aaron Copland like. So we took that soundtrack then we translated it into the interactions and the alerts associated with our products. So, for example, notification; the product is telling you something. An alarm sound, and then, of course, power on. So we took those sounds and we translated it into the product itself. So let’s give power on a listen in this dishwasher [brief music plays]. So, again, creating the overall experience associated with Monogram means more than just the aesthetics, it also means the sound that the product produces.

I’m boiling water here, but this is not your typical electric cooktop. What I’m demonstrating is the GE Monogram 36-inch induction cooktop. A lot of people like the nice, smooth appearance they get from an electric cooking surface. It’s easy to clean, has a nice, minimal look. What they don’t typically like is the cooking performance. So, historically, electric cooking has always been slower and less responsive than what you’ll find in gas. But that’s where induction’s different. We’ve got a special pan here to demonstrate what’s happening with induction technology. What you’ll notice is the cooking surface itself is not what’s heating up. What’s heating up is the ferrous material inside the pot. So the pot itself is getting hot, which therefore heats the contents much quicker than you’d get with a typical electric cooktop. The one requirement is that you need to have pots with ferrous material, which means pots that will hold a magnet. Those are readily available on the market today and if you’ve got that kind of cookware, than induction is an option you might want to consider.

For those of you entering the market for the first time in a long time, you’ll be amazed at the evolution of technology into the kitchen and the laundry room as well as the design, the aesthetics and the usability of the products. It’s a different world altogether.