Tag: ifa2017

Europe’s biggest tech show finally delivered

As we wind down after trawling IFA's labyrinthine halls, covering everything from phones to washing machines, wearables to haunted pianos, we wanted to point out the most notable things to come out of Europe's biggest tech show -- and it was quite the show this year. If you don't read anything else, read this. And if you do want even more, you can find everything else right here.

Daniel Cooper

Daniel Cooper
Senior Editor

When Microsoft began talking about its Mixed Reality program earlier this year, the whole thing left me pretty cold. The company claimed that it could slash the cost of a VR headset almost in half, and that the kit would even work with PCs that used only integrated graphics. Given the cash and computing power required for a half-decent Vive or Rift setup, I simply couldn't see Microsoft's alternative working.

Yet, after trying ASUS' mixed reality headset here at IFA, I'm a first-class passenger on the Windows Mixed Reality hype train. The company claims that the gear can be installed and running within 10 minutes, letting you explore the world of Windows Mixed Reality almost immediately. That said, my interest is limited to the Steam VR integration and the ability to play virtual reality titles for far less than it costs to buy one of the big two (still pricey) headsets.

VR may take several more years, and several hardware refreshes, before it can really be thought of as a mainstream proposition. The cost and complexity of installation were the two things keeping me from taking the plunge. I'm delighted that serious progress is being made to eliminate both of these challenges.

Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

LG has struggled to claw its way into the best-selling smartphone circle, but the company has a better chance than ever with the V30. It's generally pitched to "hardcore" video enthusiasts, but when so many of us are turning to our phones to capture our world, and sharing everything we see, and when we're just not buying cameras anymore, these days it's a good place to start for pretty much any smartphone shopper.

From color grading for your next video to hi-fi quad DACs for your music listening, there's a lot here for smartphone power users to like -- and you're reading Engadget, so there's a good chance you're one of 'em. Just as important, at least for me, is how it's all been crammed into a phone that's far more attractive than LG's "main" flagship phone, the G6. The biggest challenge the V30 has to overcome, however, is the fact that its launch occurred between those for Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 and whatever Apple decides to call its new iPhone. Rocks, hard places and smartphones.

Edgar Alvarez

Edgar Alvarez
Senior Editor

As much as I love LG's V30, particularly its design and camera features, it was Sphero that won IFA 2017 for me. The company's new Star Wars droids, R2-D2 and BB-9E, are going to be must-haves this holiday season. Who doesn't want cute toys that can be controlled using an app? (Especially if they're 1:1 replicas of characters from one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.)

What I appreciate the most about Sphero's latest Star Wars toys is the attention to detail. With BB-9E, the evil counterpart to BB-8 that's expected to debut in The Last Jedi, the company was able to make its face come to life with working LEDs. So even though BB-9E's rolling head can taken off its body, when it is attached it can draw power from its body via inductive charging. Meanwhile, R2-D2 has a built-in speaker and makes original sounds from A New Hope.

Sure, they're not cheap -- BB-9E and R2-D2 cost $150 and $180, respectively. But can you really put a price on fun?

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn Low
Reviews Editor

IFA served as a showcase for a whole variety of artificial-intelligence-powered devices. From washing machines and pianos to speakers and smartphones, all manner of home appliances and gadgets are learning to think for themselves to better serve humans.

What's different this year is Huawei's Kirin 970 CPU, which the company says will not only speed up machine-learning programs in its phones but will also protect consumers' privacy, since it eliminates the need to go through the cloud for processing. We'll learn more about how the Kirin 970 can improve AI on smartphones in October, when Huawei unveils its Mate 10 flagship -- the first with this chip on board.

Until then, we can only wait and see where AI tech will lodge itself next.

‘Seal’ swim analyzer measures your stroke form and power

Samsung and Speedo aren't the only companies targeting swimmers with new products at IFA 2017. In addition the mobile giant's Gear Fit 2 Pro and Gear Sport earlier this week, Platysens, a startup based out of Hong Kong, is doing something different with its Seal swim analyzers. Still at the prototype stage, these wearable rings help swimmers measure their hands' movement and force as they push through the water, letting them use that data through a companion app to learn more about things like their stroke distribution. They can check whether their left hand is weaker than the right one, for example.

In addition to force measurement and motion analysis, the sensors inside the Seal can also track and left-right hand symmetry and their rhythm. Naturally, syncing to your smartphone is done wirelessly over Bluetooth, and the idea is you'll share your data with coaches who can digest that and utilize it as a training tool.

Platysens says it hopes to turn its Seal prototypes into an actual product six months from now, though it doesn't know how much they'll be if that ever happens. Let's hope it actually does though, because there's definitely plenty of potential here.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Mobile AI is Huawei’s not-so-secret weapon

Smartphone makers are betting on camera features to help their flagship devices stand out. Samsung launched its first dual-cameras on the Note 8, Sony introduced super slow-mo video-recording on its XZ Premium and XZ1 series, while LG equipped the V30 with a glass lens that boasts a wide f/1.6 aperture. But Huawei has chosen a different route. In lieu of a new phone, the company showed off its Kirin 970 chip at IFA 2017, calling attention to the chipset's AI capabilities. The Kirin 970 will power Huawei's next flagship phone, the Mate 10, which is set to launch at a separate October event in Munich.

In addition to a slew of high-end features like powerful graphics performance (integrated 12-core GPU), better power management (10nm structure) and improved LTE capability (Cat 18 support), the Kirin 970's standout feature is its embedded neural processing unit (NPU). With the NPU, Huawei's next smartphone will dedicate power to AI-based tasks like recognizing and sorting images or optimizing your phone's performance.

This has several benefits, including improved performance and better battery life. The Kirin 970 "processed 2,000 images per minute, which was faster than other chips on the market," according to Huawei's press release. In real life, the Kirin 970 will likely speed up AI-based tasks if the apps invoke the NPU, which developers can do using either Huawei's own APIs, Google's TensorFlow and Facebook's Caffe 2. This means that things like facial recognition or real-time computer vision (like detecting objects on your screen) will be faster, and consume less power than they do on other phones. Plus, your privacy will be better protected because the information is being processed on the device instead of being sent to the cloud.

Huawei's focus on AI is different from its rivals in several important ways. Firstly, the company isn't simply sticking a digital assistant in its phone and calling it a day like others are doing. While it may not have an anthropomorphic form, Huawei's take on AI is a more deeply integrated one. That also means it's harder to evaluate the benefits of the behind-the-scenes AI improvements, since there are many other factors that affect a device's performance. (To be fair, though, Huawei's phones in China have an assistant called Xiao E, or "small E" in Chinese, while in the US the Mate 9 supports a limited version of Amazon's Alexa).

Because it makes its own CPUs and phones, Huawei is also uniquely able to create an AI system that uses both hardware (chip) and software for better results. Although competitors like Samsung and Xiaomi also make their own chips for their own phones, we haven't seen them take advantage of that greater control other than to cut costs and reduce dependency on third party suppliers. On the other hand, Huawei has already launched its first AI-powered phone, the Mate 9, last year, which uses machine learning software to control hardware resources. That phone was designed to optimize performance by learning your habits over time and dedicating power to the apps it predicts you'll next use, before you even launch them -- even if it was hard to tell when the AI kicked in to help manage resources on the Mate 9.

Pursuing a different route is a clever, and arguably necessary, strategy for Huawei. Despite its status as the third largest smartphone maker in the world, it still struggles to find a place in the US, hampered in part by its hard-to-pronounce name and an apparent lack of support from American carriers. Huawei has not yet released a Kirin-powered phone on a US carrier. But the company's head of software marketing Christophe Coutelle told reporters here in Berlin to "stay tuned" adding that the "US market is very important."

Coutelle told Engadget that he believes the company's investment in a dedicated chip for AI shows its position and respect for privacy. That might help allay consumers' concerns that the Chinese company is relaying information to the foreign government.

Huawei has a long way to go before it can sway some of the fans who are firmly ensconced in Apple and Samsung's camps, but the company said besting the two tech giants isn't the main objective. The Chinese brand wants to focus on creating devices that help people communicate, and is staying away from making home appliances and the like for now. This decision to hone in on phones (and the occasional tablet and laptop), along with the pursuit of deep AI integration, could differentiate Huawei from its rivals, or at least add to its credibility as a leader in mobile technology. We'll learn more about whether the Kirin 970's benefits are truly meaningful this October. Until then, Huawei will continue to linger in the shadow of Samsung and Apple until it finds a way to convince us of its worth.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

You’ll look like ‘Robocop’ with this smart cycling helmet

Bike helmets should be about safety first and foremost, but that doesn't mean you can't rock one that's also stylish. Livall's BH51, introduced at IFA 2017, is exactly that. This cycling helmet is designed to protect your head whilst offering a sleek commuter design, enhanced by a strip of bright red LEDs on the back that you can light up every time you break or turn. Aside from that, the BH51 can pair with your phone via Bluetooth, making it possible to take calls or listen to music directly from the helmet. The stereo speakers uses bone conduction technology, so you can get your audio fix and be able to pay attention to the outside world simultaneously.

Best of all, you'll look straight out of Robocop or Tron wearing it -- and you know how much you want that. The BH51 will be available in the "willow green" color pictured above, as well as three others: "graphite black," "sandstone grey," and "misty blue." If you can see yourself in one of these, Livall says it'll hit its online store and Amazon in November for around $150.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Sports brands are giving wearables another shot at success

Wearables are only as good as the apps they're compatible with. And companies making health-focused products, like smartwatches, fitness bands and even hybrids of these two, are starting to realize that. But in order to have applications that lure people to your platform, whether you're Apple, Samsung or Fitbit, often it's better if you have a hand in developing them. That's why, especially at IFA 2017, many tech firms are teaming up with brands from different industries to add a new element of usefulness to their wearables. In some cases, that often includes special-edition products created between two companies.

Just days before the tradeshow here in Berlin began, Fitbit introduced its highly anticipated Ionic smartwatch, featuring a 1.42-inch LCD touchscreen, a new wearable operating system called FitbitOS and the ability to make contactless payments. While those specs are enough to get Fitbit fans excited, the start of a partnership with sportswear giant Adidas was what stood out most. The multi-year deal will see Adidas make an athlete-focused version of the Fitbit Ionic in 2018, which is expected to launch with exclusive content including personal training programs.

This fresh partnership is interesting for many reasons, the first being that up until a couple of years ago, Adidas was making its own fitness wearables designed to compete with Fitbit's own. With the Fit Smart, launched in 2015, Adidas created a wrist-worn wearable that could measure calories burned, heart rate, running distance covered, pace and count your steps. Adidas also bought Runtastic in 2015 and, earlier this year, said it would be shutting down its aging fitness platform MiCoach and consolidate it with its new acquisition.

Runtastic's suite of apps, which range from running to nutrition, have been compatible with Fitbit's products for years, and it'll be interesting to see if Adidas turns any of those into something exclusive for Ionic users.

At SXSW 2017, Adidas' Head of Digital Sports Stacey Burr told Engadet that her team was working with third-parties on "personalized" experiences. "It's not just about, 'Can we develop a new piece of hardware that is a standalone Adidas ecosystem,'" Burr said back then. "You'll be seeing that we'll be opening up a bunch of our content and know-how to other third party devices, and [making] it more of an open platform scenario so that we can extend onto other people's devices as well."

As it turns out, we now know one of those was Fitbit. The move shouldn't come as a surprise though, since its biggest rival, Nike, has been on a similar route with Apple since the early days of the iPod. Most recently, Apple released a Nike+ edition of its Watch Series 2, which comes with exclusive bands and two special watch faces. Adidas declined to comment on this story. A company spokesperson said that it was too early to discuss its Fitbit device, since it won't be out until next year.

Meanwhile, Samsung took to IFA 2017 to reveal a partnership with Speedo. The collaboration between the South Korean tech titan and the swimwear maker consists of an app for the new Gear Fit Pro 2 and and Gear Sport. With the Speedo application, which will be available exclusively for these new devices, users can track their swimming laps and monitor the time each takes to complete. In addition to that, the app measures your burned calories and distance traveled. Naturally, it will communicate with Samsung's native S Health app, allowing you to easily view your overall fitness data there as well.

Of course, the idea is that swimmers who own a Fit Pro 2 or Sport will want to rely heavily on the Speedo app to keep track of their stats. Not only that, but Samsung obviously hopes that those who love the Speedo brand will feel enticed by its new products. Then there's the deal Samsung inked with Spotify, which will see the music-streaming service launch its first wearable app on the Gear Fit Pro 2 and Gear Fit. That's a major accomplishment for Samsung, considering Spotify still hasn't officially arrived on the Apple Watch, arguably the most popular smartwatch on the market right now.

These kind of partnerships aren't just happening in the wearable space. The smartphone world has gadgets like Huawei's P10, created in tandem with Leica. For Huawei, this means having a camera powered by an iconic brand such as Leica on one of its phones, while Leica itself benefits from getting more exposure and exploring an unfamiliar market. The same goes for Fitbit and Adidas, Samsung and Speedo or Nike and Apple. If they can win over and share each other's consumers, they all come out on top. That's magnified further when these companies work on pacts that may be exclusive, even if they happen to be temporary.

Ultimately, as saturated as the wearables market is, anything you can do to make your products stand out from the rest of the pack can only be seen as a positive. And if you're a struggling brand like Fitbit, making a special edition of your flagship product with one of the world's most famous brands is, at the very least, a safe bet.

Truly wireless earbuds are coming for your headphones

One of the dominant trends of IFA 2017 was the sheer volume of companies, both known and not-so known, that launched Bluetooth earbuds. The "truly wireless" revolution that was kickstarted by Bragi and embraced by Samsung and Apple is now a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on.

A recent Wirecutter roundup listed more than 20 companies making truly wireless earbuds, and we can expect that number to increase exponentially soon. At the show we took a closer look at offerings from mid-lower-end players like Philips and higher-end ones like B&O Play.

Speaking with representatives at the show, it's clear that the advent of the Bragi, back in 2014, sparked a flurry of internal discussions at many audio companies. But many didn't begin working on their own product until the launch of AirPods and the iPhone 7, which did away with the headphone port.

The slow (and contentious) demise of the smartphone's headphone jack is prompting a wave of interest in wireless audio. And that, as consumers are gently encouraged to ditch the wire connecting them to their phones, they might as well abandon the ones that you'll find in traditional Bluetooth headphones.

The numbers back it up, too, analysts NPD believe that around 900,000 pairs of wireless earbuds have been sold in the US since the start of the year. Of that figure, however, it's thought that 85 percent of them were sold by Apple, with the rest fighting for the remaining 15 percent.

One of the smartest things that Bragi did was to embrace what could have been the fatal flaws in its design. These earbuds are super small, with limited battery space and it's far, far too easy to lose them -- all points that would dissuade plenty of wary customers from purchasing them. But by offering a charging case, supplied alongside the earbuds, Bragi solved both problems by forcing users to develop a habit of only ever moving their earbuds from their skulls to the dock.


The case is just as important as the earbuds, which is why B&O made a big deal of making theirs look like a scaled-down sunglass case. You could easily plonk it down on the table in a restaurant and no-one would bat an eyelid.

There's also the issue of sound quality, which requires some elegant audio engineering to get around how cramped these devices are. By and large, most of them that we tried at the show didn't sound too bad, although it's clear that -- for now -- they'll never be as expressive as a pair of larger cans.

But being good enough, especially if users are only listening to low-resolution Spotify streams while they navigate a crowded subway station or office, will probably suffice. And the convenience of wire-free listening is probably enough to allay concerns from all but the snootiest audio snob.

What's likely, however, is that as more companies build their own entrants to the market, that we'll see prices crater. And since there still seems to be some room for innovation, expect to see plenty of nuanced takes on the form — and yeah, a million and one copycats as well.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Teamosa brews tea using ultrasound

We've seen a handful of tea-brewing gadgets over the years, but none have managed to break into the mainstream. The latest to step into the ring is Teamosa, a startup that's planning to launch its first product on September 13th. Teamosa itself is a small, Keurig-style device that uses ultrasonic extraction technology to brew your tea much more gently than traditional methods.

The project is the brainchild of Dr Catherine and Irven Liu, a brother-and-sister team whose parents have grown tea in Taiwan since the early '80s. Mindful of the family business they stand to one day inherit, the pair wanted to try and modernize the way that tea is brewed.

The end-result of the project is the squat, black kettle on a bamboo plate that uses either loose leaf tea or sustainably-made tea pods. Users will simply either pour tea onto the plate, or subscribe to buy the company's compostable paper capsules.

Then, the system will use a reservoir of water (in the base of the device) to pour through the tea before the liquid is somehow treated ultrasonically. The company claims that you'll have a perfect cup of tea within three minutes, and can tweak the system to your particular taste using the companion app.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to test the device for ourselves, and so can't say if Teamosa produces as tasty a blend as promised. But we're planning to source one in the future in the hope of seeing if it can replace our humble teapot and kettle combination.

That said, if you already want to get your hands on this device yourself, you can do so on Kickstarter from September 13th. Early birds will be able to grab the hardware for just $239, while latecomers will need to spend $299, or wait until it makes its retail debut at some point next year for $399.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Source: Teamosa

Fitness wearables will live or die by their apps

This week at IFA, some of the biggest players in wearables launched their latest smartwatches. From Fitbit's debut Ionic to Samsung's Gear Sport, these fitness-focused watches also run the companies' own proprietary platforms, each offering their own app selection. For them to succeed, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin, which also unveiled a new watch at the show, must now race to stock their stores with the best apps. That's good news for smartwatches in general, because the influx of wearable apps could do for smartwatches what it did for smartphones years ago.

Franky, they need it. Even though smartwatches have been selling better than expected lately, the entire product category has been poorly received in general. Companies like Microsoft and Motorola have completely given up on making them anymore, and the industry now relies on the enthusiasm from fashion and fitness brands to keep it going. Still, with the devices announced this week, there is hope for a rejuvenation of the industry, especially if smartwatch apps take off.

First, let's quickly recap the three operating systems we're discussing. With the Fitbit Ionic, the wearables maker also debuted its first-ever smartwatch OS, called Fitbit OS. We'll also look at Samsung's Tizen OS as well as Garmin's own platform. There's a reason these companies came up with their own software instead of going with Android Wear. While I'm not discussing it length here. Google's system, as well as Apple's Watch OS, are designed for a wider audience, and are therefore multi-purpose. These three proprietary offerings focus on health and fitness-related functions instead, and put these tools front and center.

For a first attempt, Fitbit OS is a surprisingly mature system, although that can most likely be attributed to the experience of smartwatch pioneer Pebble, which Fitbit acquired earlier this year. The company says it learned from Pebble that the key to encouraging app development is to make it as easy as possible for people to build apps for their OS.

To that end, Fitbit launched a web-based console called Fitbit Studio, so anyone with a browser can code an app for the Ionic. Fitbit also uses popular and relatively simple standards like SVG, JavaScript and CSS for its apps, which saves developers the need to learn new languages. Given Pebble's popularity and success on that front, it wouldn't be surprising if developers indeed begin to create Fitbit OS apps in earnest.

Then there's Samsung's Tizen OS. Now in its third iteration, it's the most mature smartwatch platform of the lot. Tizen is the platform for the new Gear Sport and Gear Fit 2 Pro, and already offers 31,000 apps and watch faces. It's an open-source, Linux-based system that also powers TVs, cameras and printers. Linux is also a popular standard that many developers already know, although it's not as common as JavaScript and CSS, which Fitbit uses.

Samsung has a headstart in this race, because of Tizen's relative maturity and the company's ability to attract big-name partners. For example, the Gear Sport and Fit 2 Pro are the first wearables to feature Speedo's swim-tracking app. Tizen will no doubt continue to see its app numbers grow, given the steady popularity of the devices it powers.

Also launching at IFA is Garmin's Vivoactive 3, which runs the company's Garmin OS. Like its competitors, Garmin's software runs apps, tracks your workouts and lets you make contactless payments from your wrist.

Through its Connect IQ open development platform, Garmin was also able to recruit partners like Uber and Trek to offer a small selection of third-party apps for its OS. Its selection is still measly compared to Tizen, though, but the company is evidently trying.


Each brand's success doesn't just depend on the number of apps it can offer, but the quality, too. Like we saw with phones that tried to make app development easy (cough Firefox OS cough), a high number of compatible offerings isn't enough to make an OS takes off.

Companies must first make sure there are a compelling suite of apps at launch -- and they can do this either by creating their own library or turning to partners. All three companies clearly understand this principle, having sought collaborations with the likes of Spotify, Pandora and Uber. So the race is on, then, to see which of them can ink the most deals in the shortest amount of time.

Of course, hardware and style are important factors that help determine a smartwatch's success, too. Samsung's Gear Sport looks the most like a traditional watch, with its round face and svelte design. Fitbit's Ionic, in keeping with the company's distinctly geometric aesthetic, still looks like a blockish tracker, but its fans will be happy to overlook that for the Ionic's advanced sensors and brilliant display. Garmin, with its heritage and expertise in GPS technology, still proves to be a favorite for running enthusiasts.

Although Samsung retains its lead in app development for now, it is still too early to call it the winner of the trio. Fitbit's OS, while young, was partly created with the help of the people behind one of the most popular smartwatches in history. Meanwhile, Garmin has a dedicated cult following of runners that have specific demands. To survive this race, each finalist must boost quality app growth in its ecosystem.

And then, the finalists left standing will have to take on the industry's most expensive and arguably most popular device -- the Apple Watch -- in the ultimate round of smartwatch wars.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

Play spot the difference with ASUS’ ROG Strix gaming laptops

Gamers are a broad and diverse community, and treating them all as the single customer with a single set of needs isn't very smart. It's why ASUS is trying to break the one-size-fits all mould with its ROG Strix edition laptops that it initially showed off earlier this year. The two devices, the Scar and Hero editions, are designed to cater specifically to both FPS and MOBA players, respectively.

The headline tweaks made to the Scar Edition include a better display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 5ms response time. In addition, the keyboard has been intentionally made shallower in order to ensure that keypresses register that little bit faster. After all, you need to be sure you're not wasting yoctoseconds of time pushing the actual buttons in the midst of a round of Overwatch.

Visually, too, the Scar has been given a gunmetal grey finish that's intended to remind you of assault rifles and bullets flying through midair. Open the lid and you'll find the palm rest has been styled with a carbon fiber-esque design, as well as side-firing stereo speakers that will help you pinpoint enemies.

The Hero, meanwhile, is clad in a visual design called "Monster Scale" which is meant to evoke, well, monster-fighting MOBAs. Rather than response time, the display has been tweaked to offer a better sRGB color gamut to ensure you're only battling enemies in League of Legends. In addition, the company has made the keyboards more resilient, knowing that such games, with repeated, furious button pressing, often ruin keyboards.

Both devices have the usual raft of build-to-order options, which you can pick and choose to your heart's delight. What's going to be interesting, however, is to see if gamers take to the technical customizations specific to each genre. After all, having a laptop catered around your needs is great, although it's not easy to see if these tweaks were actually being asked for in the first place.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!

The smart kitchen revolution is a slow one

Of all the spaces in our homes, the kitchen is the one that has seen the least change in the last few years. Sure, that countertop CD player has given way to an Echo, but you've probably not invested in a smartphone-controlled oven or DRM-enabled juicer. Look hard enough, however, and you can see more radical shifts in the appliances world on the horizon. It's just going to take a while before this technology is affordable enough for us mere mortals.

Historically, when technology has made an impact in the kitchen, it often radically redefines how our society operates. Statistician Hans Rosling believed that the washing machine was the most important invention in the world. Other academics agree, saying that freeing women from domestic labor was responsible for both huge shifts in how we work and created several economic booms.

But the last big innovation -- assuming you don't count the items you find on late-night shopping channels -- was probably the microwave or dishwasher. Both of those became reasonably affordable more than half a century ago. But fear not, because the technology industry is slowly beginning to push for dramatic ways to upend the staid world of white goods.


The LG's Styler, which was announced a few years ago and could redefine how we wash our clothes. Essentially, it's a wardrobe-sized box into which you hang your clothes to get them steam cleaned. Simply fill up the reservoir at the bottom with water, and your outfits are progressively shaken and boiled until they're clean and wrinkle-free.

Then there's TwinWash, LG's system of tiny washing machines beneath its larger free standing models. The idea is to separate delicates and other, smaller loads, from the main drum to speed up laundry times. And, frankly, it's the sort of throw-stuff-against-the-wall thinking that makes the technology industry so exciting. Both of these have one major drawback, however, and it's their very high price, since both cost around upwards of two grand.

Samsung's vision for the future of laundry is exemplified by the QuickDrive washing machine, which it launched here in Berlin. The company is shouting about its decision to separate the drum from its backplate and spinning them independently. The idea is that the contrasting movement will cause the water to move more vigorously and, therefore, clean your clothes faster. The company is also celebrating the QuickDrive's built-in artificial intelligence, which it claims will help clueless washers make better choices to pick programs.

Another crazy idea that Samsung's been peddling for the last few years has been AddWash. It's a secondary door in its machines that lets you add clothes to the wash after the cycle has begun. Ubiquitous in its TV advertising, it's clear that the feature is liked enough by its customers for it to proliferate through an increasing number of Samsung's washers.

Then there was Panasonic, which showed off its vision for replacing the washing machine as we know it altogether. The elegantly-named Sustainable Maintainer is a cabinet into which you'd chuck your dirty clothes. A robotic arm and camera then examines each item in turn, checking the washing instructions against an online database.

Once it had determined what, and how, the item should be washed, nozzles will spray the fabric with specific quantities of detergent. Then, when the hardware is confident that the stubborn stains have been taken, the clothes are suction dried and blasted with UV light. Finally, another robotic arm will fold the clothes ready for you to put them back into your drawers. If that sounds familiar, it's because the company has been working on Laundroid, a laundry-folding robot for the last couple of years.

Panasonic admits that the Sustainable Maintainer is the better part of a decade away from being consumer-ready. But the fact that the company is, at least, trying to look beyond mere refinements to the existing technology is heartening. It's not simply enough to look to tweak the existing formula, especially when big ideas are so en vogue.


However, that exact approach is being taken by some of the more traditional appliance makers exhibiting at IFA 2017. Hoover, Candy, Sharp and others have all decided that more iterative refinements, bolting on connected technology to their existing hardware. These devices are little more than a washing machine, oven, and dishwasher with touchscreens running Android. But, unlike the more radical concepts on show here, will actually be available in stores within the year.

Even the humble oven isn't immune to the future, thanks to Miele's brand new Dialog Oven. The company has developed a way to use the same electromagnetic waves that are broadcast for mobile phone networks as a vehicle for cooking food. It's similar to a microwave, albeit using an entirely different frequency, and one that apparently will cook your food perfectly every time. It'll cost you, though, since it's expected to cost close to $10,000 when it launches next year.


Up close and personal, the most obvious difference between Dialog and any other oven is its two-inch-thick door. That's to keep the device from blasting its neighbors with the waves, as well as to avoid disrupting nearby communications signals. The company showed off the technology by cooking a fish to perfection despite it being sat in a block of ice. More importantly, however, this system will mean that you can slow roast pulled pork in two hours instead of five or ten.

Some of these appliances will have an easier route to our homes than others, especially the ones that aren't trying to reinvent the wheel. The companies that are simply trying to bolt on smart features to their existing products are going to have the most success in the short term. Hell, in a year or two it'll probably be hard to find appliances that don't offer some sort of smartphone control.

But in the longer term, it'll be the bigger ideas that offer a radically improved way to live our lives that'll win out. The downside to that is that these things take an order of magnitude more time to get picked up than, say, smartphones. On average, we replace our phones once every two-and-a-half-years, but replace an appliance once every decade. As a consequence, it's going to be some time before you begin living with your first truly smart kitchen. But it is coming, and we'd best be ready for when it gets here.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!