Camera that helps you dress and shower that saves water: 5 other quirky smart home devices

This smart toaster from Griffin allows you to precisely control how you would like your toast from a smartphone, with presets for different types of bread and pastries. (PHOTO: GRIFFIN TECHNOLOGY)
This smart toaster from Griffin allows you to precisely control how you would like your toast from a smartphone, with presets for different types of bread and pastries. (PHOTO: GRIFFIN TECHNOLOGY)

SINGAPORE - Watch out, Amazon has joined the fashion police, as of Wednesday (April 26).

The e-retailer and technology giant unveiled a voice-controlled camera - the Echo Look - and a companion app that compares and judges outfits by blending advice from fashion insiders and algorithms.

Closer to home, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) is seeking proposals for supply of smart shower devices - that track water usage in real time - to 10,000 homes.

This comes after a study the PUB conducted with the National University of Singapore concluded that such devices could help a person save up to five litres of water a day.

The statutory board even said it hopes to work with industry partners to improve upon existing smart shower devices, such as allowing data captured by the smart devices to be transferred to phones or tablets.

In a world where even the most mundane appliances seem to be getting a jolt of intelligence, here are five other unexpectedly smart home devices:

1. Smarter than Hue think

Consumer electronics giant Phillips gave its lighting business a new shine with the Hue system of smart light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and strips back in 2012.

Now into the third generation, the company touts Hue as the "world's most connected light" on its website, a claim backed by the Wi-Fi functionality baked into all Hue lights.

This allows the colour (the Hue is said to be capable of reproducing 16 million colours) and brightness of each bulb to be individually controlled through apps on both Android and iOS, even when you're not in the same room.

And this isn't even Hue's most spectacular parlour (pun not intended) trick. The lights can change their... hue to suit the colour scheme of any photo in a connected device's gallery.

2. Slice of sky in brainy box

Japanese computer engineer Ken Kawamoto designed the Tempescope, a device capable of physically displaying the next day's weather forecast in a given location by connecting to online weather services through a smartphone.

Using water in a small hidden tank, fog and rain can be faithfully recreated within a transparent acrylic box to spectacular effect, with "lightning" courtesy of hidden LEDs to boot.

Buoyed by the overwhelmingly positive reception to his curio in 2012, Mr Kawamoto would later release full schematics for a refined version, that allowed do-it-yourself enthusiasts to build their own Tempescope.

A crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo was launched in 2015 in the hopes of commercialising the product.

Unfortunately, despite coverage on major tech sites such as Wired UK and Engadget, the campaign only mustered 68 per cent of the funding needed.

3. Can smart and cool converge?

Anyone who has watched local television over the last year or so would probably have seen air-conditioning manufacturer Daikin's advertisement for its Smile series of air-conditioners.

Or heard its infamous jingle set to the tune of French composer Jacques Offenbach's Infernal Gallop, better known as the can-can:

But the whimsical ads belie a very intelligent line of air-conditioners that have advanced functions such as smartphone control

A built-in infrared sensor even changes air-conditioner behaviour according to human movement in a room.

Sadly, as the ads suggest, you can't be both at the same time.

4. Toasting to a smart future

As if the point needed to be hammered home harder, the rise of smart home devices has culminated in a smart toaster, of all things.

Released by Griffin Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas in January, each toaster costs a surprisingly-affordable US$99.99.

A companion app allows you to precisely control how you would like your toast, be it a light sear or full-on "chao tah" (cheekily represented by an image of a blackened toast in the app).

The Griffin toaster even comes with different presets for toasting different types of bread, be it white bread, bagels or waffles, just to name a few. 

5. Thoughtful machine makes coffee

The Nespresso Prodigio uses Bluetooth to notify you whenever your capsules are running low, schedule your next cuppa. It can even tell you what is wrong with itself. (PHOTO: NESPRESSO)

Nespresso-made coffee is the debonair George Clooney's favourite drink, if the coffee machine-maker's own advertisements are to be believed.

In February last year, it released the Prodigio, a Bluetooth-enabled machine that uses Nespresso's signature capsules to brew coffee.

Sensors track the number of capsules remaining, allow you to schedule your next cuppa and monitor the machine's condition.

The Prodigio starts from $398, but you will need to pay $528 for the milk-frothing version should you hanker for a cappuccino or latte.

We'll stick to our neighbourhood kopi uncle.

Sources: Phillips, Tempescope, Indiegogo, Wired UK, Engadget, Daikin Singapore, Griffin Technology, Nespresso