I learned more in a few minutes making caramel than I ever have cooking anything else in my life. Attempting to melt sugar at 310ºF, I found that my thermometer got stuck as the sugar clumped dry somewhere in the mid 200s. Had I screwed up? Should I try again? Suddenly, something changed (a chemical reaction, no doubt), the thermometer began to skyrocket, and I was soon stirring a delicious batch of caramel. I realized how easy it is to forget that food is really science, filled with just as many quick-triggering events as slow, predictable gradients.
These are the types of culinary epiphanies behind Range ($50), a new iOS thermometer from John Kestner’s Supermechanical—the same team that created the impressive Internet-of-things precursor, Twine. It’s a silicon-tipped probe that can track everything from ice to char (-40ºF to 450ºF), providing you a graph of progress along with the option to receive push alerts across your devices at certain temperatures.
"Temperature over time is important, but invisible," Kestner tells me. "What can we learn by surfacing some of this data in the same way that pedometers are tracking your daily motion?"
Continuing the open philosophy of Twine, Range’s APIs will be available to developers to mine. Kestner imagines a wave of cooking apps for specialties like chocolate, meat, and beer that could use the real-world feedback loop of temperature to interact with recipes. And he’s working with specialists like Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco to explore what makes some of their small-batch products replicable.
Even still, you may wonder if this is a step back for Kestner. Range is a deft little piece of industrial design—the silicon loop is grippable, memorable, and it clips easily on a pot—but wasn’t Twine our gateway to a more intelligent world? And isn’t this a mere kitchen tool?
"A lot of what interests us is the slow, steady march towards making intelligent objects," Kestner tells Co.Design. "I’ve probably expounded on this before, but ‘supermechanical’ is our philosophy—take an understood, intuitive physical interface, and overlay a ‘super’ digital interface onto it. It’s not always as sexy as creating a whole new category of object, but it’s just as important since we’re not going to shift the paradigm of every single object in our lives. Instead, they’ll just evolve into smarter versions of the same tools our grandparents used."
Indeed, for mankind to live in a world of intelligent objects, every single one of our objects has to become more intelligent first. And with Range, it seems like Supermechanical is expanding their purview to bridge the gap between the analog and the digital one smarter device at a time—no coding expertise necessary.