IFA

Cool features make for a hot technology showcase

A wall of Samsung TVs with Quantum Dots technology at IFA in Berlin. The fair is the world's biggest for entertainment technology, IT and household appliances. LG's smart fridge has a 29-inch Windows 10 tablet as one of its doors. Among the fridge's
A wall of Samsung TVs with Quantum Dots technology at IFA in Berlin. The fair is the world's biggest for entertainment technology, IT and household appliances. LG's smart fridge has a 29-inch Windows 10 tablet as one of its doors. Among the fridge's features, its touchscreen can turn translucent with a knock, allowing users to peer inside.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY PHOTO: REUTERS
LG’s smart fridge has a 29-inch Windows 10 tablet as one of its doors. Among the fridge’s features, its touchscreen can turn translucent with a knock, allowing users to peer inside.
LG’s smart fridge has a 29-inch Windows 10 tablet as one of its doors. Among the fridge’s features, its touchscreen can turn translucent with a knock, allowing users to peer inside. PHOTO: REUTERS

Progress on the smart home front on display at Europe's tech show

Europe's largest tech convention and trade show, IFA, comes to a close today, heralding new products that consumers can look forward to as early as next month.

Unlike in previous years, there was no one new technology which major companies were jumping upon at the event in Berlin, Germany. Instead, they showcased improvements to current tech, making them more market-ready and consumer-friendly, such as favourites like virtual reality and smart home and connected devices.

The latter was particularly prominent during IFA, which started last Friday, as huge home appliance brands like LG, Samsung and Panasonic showcased their ideas on how smart homes should be set up.

The race towards the smart home seems to be heating up in the kitchen - more specifically, at the refrigerator. At IFA, electronics firm LG responded to its rival, fellow South Korean Samsung - which announced its smart fridge at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year - with its own Smart Instaview Door-in-Door Fridge.

The fridge has a gigantic 29-inch Windows 10 tablet as one of its doors. The touchscreen can turn translucent with a knock, allowing users to peer inside. They can also superimpose icons over various food items on the shelves, putting details such as expiry date, quantity and even names to label their food.

It also syncs to a smartphone; internal cameras in the fridge allow users to check what is inside while out grocery shopping.

Analysts say this is the first step in how smart homes are steadily creeping up on consumers, with companies increasingly pushing out affordable smart appliances.

"A lot of providers are integrating Internet of Things (connected devices) into so many things. By sheer scale, more and more consumers will start using connected home solutions," said Ms Jessica Ekholm, a research director at market research firm Gartner.

"My belief is that we will see a gradual uptake of connected home products and services rather than a sudden surge in connected home products," she said.

Samsung's Family Hub fridge lets users control connected appliances such as washing machines and ovens directly from a 21.5-inch Android tablet.

While Samsung seems to be making the fridge the centre of its smart home hub, LG seems to be taking a more traditional approach of dispersing control mainly through the mobile phone.

Smart home appliances may be shifting the nexus of home computing from the PC or laptop onto various appliances, but there were still lots of new laptop offerings at IFA.

Lenovo announced its new Yoga Book, a laptop-tablet hybrid. Instead of a traditional tactile keyboard, the Yoga Book unfolds to present a tablet screen and a smooth, blank surface.

In this mode, it functions as a drawing tablet akin to that of a Wacom. Scribbling and drawing on the surface with the attached stylus is a breeze - it is responsive, quick and extremely intuitive.

This Halo keyboard, as Lenovo calls it, also lets you slip a piece - or even an entire sheaf - of regular paper on top. Whatever you scribble on it using Lenovo's real-pen stylus - which has ink - will be automatically digitised on the tablet.

Hit the keyboard key and the surface comes to life, activating a non-physical keyboard. It takes some time to get used to typing on a non-tactile keyboard and, as with most tech, it takes a while before it starts feeling natural.

It comes in two versions: an Android model priced at US$499 (S$680) and a more expensive Windows version at US$549. Both are expected to ship globally next month.

Acer released the Acer Swift 7, which it touts as the world's slimmest laptop, coming in at less than a centimetre thick.

It also unveiled a laptop that is the opposite of slim; the Predator 21x is a gargantuan gaming laptop with a massive 21-inch curved screen - the first of its kind.

It is a full-fledged gaming rig featuring two high-end Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics cards, five cooling fans and a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX keys.

Weighing a hefty 8kg, the Predator 21x is not something easily lugged around for everyday use, although its specs and 2560 x 1080 IPS display - which rival even desktop gaming rigs - make it a tempting choice for LAN parties.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg of what was available at IFA. The Straits Times Digital takes a closer look at the gadgets and new toys consumers can expect that were announced at IFA this year, from new audio products to mobile phones and new wearables.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Cool features make for a hot technology showcase'. Print Edition | Subscribe