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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.

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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.