When I was little, maybe 10, maybe younger, I hated grocery shopping with my mother. All that time, filling a cart, when I could have been absorbed in a book! I'd daydream about how someday, I would design a fridge that somehow knew when we were out of orange juice, and that fridge would just quietly order orange juice, before my mother had even realized we needed more. Magic.
Today, standing at the Consumer Electronics Show in LG's booth, I nearly called my mother. It exists! They made my magic fridge!
If we're sensing any theme this year, it's "smart" devices of every stripe. They're hooked up to your Wifi, they're recording your weight, and they're putting your photos online before you've even left the Grand Canyon. We're all familiar with there being an "app for that" on our phone - but soon there'll be an "app for that" on our fridge, our washing machine, our TV, our watches, and an app for that on our smartphone to control them all.
Sometimes, it seems a bit creepy - do I really want my scale to Facebook my weight? - but the neat thing about Fitbit's Wifi scale, besides its ability to track ups and downs in your weight, is its competitive aspect. Sure, I can tweet my weight, but I can also compete with my husband to lose the most weight in the month of September.
LG's touchscreen interfaces make a lot of effort to be simple and streamlined. The refrigerator's food manager clean and involves lots of pictures, like your grocery self-checkout.
The real killer, though, is Samsung's smart TV. Voice recognition is popping up everywhere these days. We can't escape Apple's charming ads for Siri, its voice recognition helper for everything on your phone. By now, we're all used to those automated call center lines asking us to state our purpose for calling. As we know after yelling "REPRESENTATIVE" in frustration at those automated 1-800 numbers, it doesn't always work so well in practice.
Enter this TV. Here's how this goes. Let's say you're on your couch, the TV's off, and you remember Downton Abbey is on tonight on PBS.
"Hi, TV." No need to shout.
Over on the wall, the TV quietly powers on.
Over on the wall, the TV moves up a channel.
Nope. Not PBS. Gah, what channel is PBS on, anyway?
Over on the wall, that TV tunes itself to PBS.
It's not new technology, but it doesn't need to be new - it just needs to work well. In addition to its voice recognition tricks, the TV builds facial recognition profiles. Your children or grandchildren could have a whole different set of preferences saved, or a whole different set of restrictions. Wave your hand, and the TV will let you guide a mouse across the screen easily to navigate the Internet. For someone with arthritis, or facing mobility issues, something that just works, like this TV, could be a godsend. (It'll be in stores sometime early this year. )
Watch a demo, below:
We'll post more coverage of these smart electronics, robots that could help you live your life better, and other, nerdier things as we wrap up the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. You can follow all of our CES coverage here.