SOME CRITICS HAVE COMPLAINED THAT home technology isolates family members. The stereotype is that technology leaves Mom alone in the kitchen, with Dad in his home office, teenage Johnny zoned out in his room playing video games, and tween Jennifer in her room on the cell phone or listening to her iPod.

The findings of the Internet Home Alliance's Mealtime pilot, which had 20 Boston-area families test the latest kitchen technology, dispute this idea.

“We used to have one computer in the basement,” says Carla Graham, 38, a homemaker and former gerontologist, who—along with husband Steve, 35, son Ian, 5, and daughter Ainsley, 2—experimented with the technology.

“In the past, if I wanted to look for a recipe, I had to haul the kids down to the basement,” Graham says. “The Mealtime system brought everything up to the kitchen, which is really where we functioned anyway.”

ON THE GO: Mealtime families could turn their Polara ovens on or off remotely from their cell phones.
ON THE GO: Mealtime families could turn their Polara ovens on or off remotely from their cell phones.

The participating families tested the Mealtime gear for several months last year. During the pilot, homeowners managed kitchen and meal preparation tasks from a Whirlpool Polara oven, which has a hot/cold feature; a Whirlpool refrigerator with a Web tablet, which serves up Internet access and e-mail; an Icebox entertainment center, which has a television, DVD/CD player, and Web and e-mail access; and a wireless application protocol cell phone.

Here are some highlights of the findings:

  • Participants considered convenient Internet access to be Mealtime's greatest benefit. They liked access to information via the Icebox and Whirlpool Web tablet.
  • Most participants said they would “probably” or “definitely” consider purchasing a system like Mealtime in the future.
  • The device used most often was the Icebox entertainment center, which the participants said offered the greatest ease of use.
  • Visit www.internethomealliance.com for more information.