Tag Archives | TV

IFA: Convergence in the Kitchen, Kinda Sorta

IFA has been doing consumer electronics for far longer than anyone’s called them consumer electronics. (The show dates back to 1924; in 1930, the keynote was given by Albert Einstein, who talked about a newfangled device know as television.) This is the first year that the show’s focus has broadened to include appliances as well as consumer electronics; at first blush, that sounds like it makes a lot of sense. After all, the two worlds are converging, right?

Well, maybe a little bit, but as I strolled the appliance halls at the show today, I was mostly struck by how separate the worlds of electronics and traditional appliances remain. Yes, virtually everything from microwave ovens to irons are packed with sophisticated ciruitry these days. But I had visions of new-wave kitchen and laundry gadgets that sit on a home network and do double-duty as entertainment devices, and I saw almost nothing at the show that even hinted at such a merger of devices in the home.

I said almost nothing. Vestel, the Turkish company whose Yoda laptop I already covered, also had a large booth full of kitchen equipment. And it was demoing some concept kitchen/entertainment products which it doesn’t intend to actually sell to anyone.

One was a dishwasher with a built-in TV…

Another was a refrigerator with a TV…

And the third was another fridge with built-in, touch-sensitive MP3 playback. (It was also the shiniest appliance I’ve seen, so it serves a third purpose as a mirror–that’s USA Today’s Ed Baig snapping a photo in the reflection.)

I can kind of see why Vestel isn’t planning to turn these into real products, since none of them look particularly practical. (Especially the dishwasher, unless you’re a midget for whom the TV is at eyelevel.) All the technology exists to make appliances that have consumer electronics-style functionality. But designing ones that make sense is still a challenge. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any examples of anyone succeeding at doing so, unless you cound iRobot’s Roomba.

I’m still convinced we’ll see more examples of smart appliances, including ones that have consumer appeal. Just not at IFA 2008, and maybe not anywhere for a while…

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