Barclays Bank is planning to bring home banking, via the microwave, straight to your kitchen. Technological convergence is being taken to the extreme with a microwave oven from NCR that lets you bank and shop online, watch TV and Email your friends - even while cooking your supper. The prototype Microwave Bank, as it has been dubbed, could be on the market within a couple of years, according to NCR. "Barclays is very keen to work closely with NCR to bring the Microwave Bank into the public eye," said Roger Alexander, managing director of Barclays' Emerging Markets group. "With the convergence of computers and communications, there are all sorts of opportunities for our customers to talk to us in different ways - a microwave bank is just one example." NCR is confident that the Microwave Bank, which as well as providing Internet access can pay bills, transfer money, check account balances and make sure your groceries are stocked up, will appeal to consumers who are technophobic when it comes to PCs. While banks and retailers already offer home services via PCs and televisions, around 70% of consumers do not have PCs and many regard the TV room as somewhere to relax, not work, maintains NCR. Despite NCR's claims that it has been well received in consumer trials, analysts believe the scheme is taking converging technologies too far. "It is easier to sell a new technology by integrating it into an existing product," commented Mike Welch, analyst at market research company Inteco. "It doesn't make sense, however, to graft one technology on to another that is not related and I don't think most people stand in front of their microwaves for more time that is absolutely necessary." The Microwave Bank works by talking to it or by touch. Touch screen technology has been incorporated into the oven door and voice recognition software means there's no need for a keyboard. Its intelligent agents will learn users' preferences and search the Internet for bargains, and it will even keep track of foods that need to be replaced and contact your local supermarket to get them.
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