Ready for a smart home?

Imagine a refrigerator that compiles shopping lists, notifies homeowners when food items run low, and orders groceries over the Internet.

Two British companies, ICL and Electrolux, have already built prototypes.

And that's just the beginning.

The MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., is working on a kitchen that tells you what's in your pantry and whether you've got enough ingredients for a recipe.

The "smart" kitchen would be part of a household network linking computers and appliances, say researchers.

Among their goals: doors that open for specific people or animals, thermostats that respond to voice commands, and a washer and dryer that choose the correct cycle after "reading" care labels on garments.

Researchers expect the "smart" home to be up and thinking in 2003.

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