Why This Won't Be the Year of the Texting Fridge
The Internet-connected refrigerator is probably the most clichéd example of technology excess. So what Consumer Electronics Show would be complete without one?
A new fridge from South Korea's LG Electronics incorporates a service called HomeChat, which allows users of Line, Japan's most-popular mobile messaging app, to tap out conversations with their home appliances.
Send a message to the fridge saying, "I'm going on vacation," and it'll respond with a confirmation that the device is going into power-saving mode. The refrigerator can also recount what's inside to let you know, say, how many beers are left before you get off the couch. And it's not just fridges. The Hom-Bot Square, which is like a Roomba vacuum, can respond to questions like, "When did you last clean?" And the thing won't get all passive-aggressive about it.
The LG product line and the collaboration with digital-sticker-powerhouse Line were quietly unveiled late last month, but LG first demonstrated the products in action at CES. David VanderWaal, LG's director of brand marketing for home appliances, said visitors to the booth were excited about the HomeChat products, which use natural language processing technology to make it easier to interact with the appliances. The company also has a washing machine that can be activated via HomeChat and send status updates about the current cycle, as well as an oven that fetches recipes and messages them to users. Let's hope the Wi-Fi scale in the bathroom doesn't start talking with the fridge and stove.
Not to be outdone, Samsung announced its Smart Home line of appliances at CES. The company told my colleague Sam Grobart that it aims to become the world's largest appliance manufacturer by 2015. Samsung refrigerators and washers should let owners control them using smartphones and tablets. Samsung's latest products also have built-in cameras (for home monitoring, not for selfies).
There's little doubt that connected devices have arrived, but appliances haven't been the magic bullet. We covered this in more detail in our special report on the topic last month. But in short: the tweeting, app storing, texting fridge is a popular product at CES — just not in the average person's kitchen.