You could soon be texting your fridge

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IOL CES 2 AFP A LG representative shows a smartphone with Home Chat in front of a LG smart refrigerator at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada. The LG Smart Home system with the Home Chat smart platform allows users to communicate with home appliances via text message. Picture: ROBYN BECK

Las Vegas - Appliances are becoming part of the family, weighing in with insights while helping with chores from cooking to doing laundry.

Home networks that allowed household items such as lamps, thermostats and locks get “smart” with Internet connections and computing power were among trends gaining steam at the Consumer Electronics Show that ended in Las Vegas on Friday.

South Korean home appliance titans LG and Samsung weighed in with systems to let people communicate with household equipment.

“We are texting friends and family throughout the day. Why not do the same thing with your air conditioning system or your vacuum?” LG national product trainer Randy Overton asked at the company's booth on the CES show floor.

“You can have your refrigerator tell you what is in it or your kitchen range text you when a roast is almost done.”

LG unveiled a HomeChat system that lets people fire off text messages to appliances in natural language and then get responses couched in slightly playful attitude.

IOL CES Attendees look at a vacuum cleaner robots at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP

“It's about keeping in touch, and making it a little more fun too,” Overton said. “That is what technology is all about.”

LG devices that can synch to the network include a washer, stove, refrigerator and a robotic vacuum.

The refrigerator can text its owner when food is a day or so from spoiling, or respond to queries such as “How much beer is left?”

“HomeChat gives you the experience of talking to appliances around you,” said LG chief technology officer Skott Ahn.

The refrigerator has a library of recipes to help figure out ways to prepare what is inside.

Keeping track of food requires entering data into the refrigerator as items are added or removed.

Samsung Electronics introduce Smart Home, a service for managing its smart TVs, home appliances and smartphones.

The service is due to roll out across Samsung devices in the first half of this year.

“We are bringing our capabilities as the world's number one manufacturer of smart devices to make the connected home a reality for consumers today,” said Samsung media solutions center president Wonpyo Hong.

The system integrates Samsung smartphones, appliances, cameras and even Galaxy Gear smart watches, according to the consumer electronics powerhouse.

Capabilities at launch will include letting people use smartphones or televisions to turn on air conditioning, activate lights and more, according to Samsung.

People will also be able to get real-time views streamed from appliances with built-in cameras.

“The service will gradually expand its coverage by including additional Samsung products as well as other manufacturers' devices and appliances,” Samsung said in a release.

LG's Overton expected it to take a few years before there is a universal standard for communicating with appliances, but that is would happen.

Here are some of the highlights and trends seen at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show:

1. Wearables: From connected socks and bras to baby clothing, wearable technology with the ability to transform computing was an overriding theme at the huge electronics fair. There was no showing of Google Glass, but other connected eyewear and apps for Glass were prominent, as was the first-ever "wrist revolution" zone.

2. The Internet of Things: A connected toothbrush, basketball and tennis racket showcased the many uses of embedded technology in everyday objects.

3. Televisions: The major manufacturers showed off their biggest displays, including "ultra HD," curved screens and interactive features. The tech and entertainment industries unveiled new partnerships to deliver high-definition content which can benefit from the format.

4. Automobiles: A record nine automakers were at CES, highlighting the importance of technology in the vehicle. A fully self-driving car was not part of the show, but driverless parking was demonstrated. And General Motors announced some cars would have 4G Internet connections.

5. Smartphones: If the smartphone was already the centre of personal technology for many, it has now become the foundation for many innovations at the show. Apps leveraging the computing power of the smartphone and linking to the cloud were numerous. And the show saw the introduction of some powerful new "phablets," as well as bendable displays.

6. Robotics: For play, work or entertainment, robotics took up an increasing amount of floor space. Robots designed to teach children programming as well as "telepresence" robots were showcased.

7. Drones: Grabbing a lot of attention were a handful of exhibitors of personal drones to be used as toys, or for professional photography and cinematography.

8. 3D Printing: Advances in 3D printing technology on display at CES suggest this technology is ready for the masses. Singapore-based Pirate 3D introduced its Buccaneer home printer that sells for $497.

9. Smart homes: Home appliance titans LG and Samsung added their might to a trend of letting people command and even exchange text messages with stoves, washing machines, vacuums and other household equipment for tending to the demands of daily life. Another new twist at the show came from makers of Internet-enabled door locks.

10. Intuitive computing: Technology firms want to get rid of the mouse and touchpad. New computer and gaming hardware at the show was imbued with software that recognizes gesture, voice and even eye movements as people are freed to interact with devices naturally instead of having to click on icons or use touchscreens. - AFP



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