Smart appliances at CES: Fancy fridges and robot butlers

From refrigerators that order groceries to robots that clean house, CES 2016 was full of high-tech appliances that will make our lives a whole lot easier.

Every January, appliance companies head to Las Vegas to show off their most audacious attempts to make your house smarter and more high-tech. Some of these crazy home innovations, like Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator, are due out this year, while others, like Whirlpool’s interactive kitchen backsplash and in-sink dishwasher, are more concept than reality. While some of these products might seem a little ridiculous, just wait a few years. A fridge that orders groceries for you will seem completely normal.

Samsung’s CES appliance announcements always get tons of buzz, because the company tends to go over-the-top with its features. This year was no different. The Family Hub refrigerator has a 21.5-inch display for receiving call and text notifications, checking calendar appointments, streaming music, shopping for and ordering groceries, and mirroring a Samsung smart TV. You’ll basically never want to leave your fridge, which could negatively affect your waistline.

If you’ve ever wanted a robot to be your personal butler, Haier’s uBot is the cutest one we’ve seen so far. Haier designed the robot for its uHome connected home platform, available only in China, and we’re incredibly jealous. uBot is not only adorable—the pint-sized robot can perform tasks for you like turning the lights on before you walk through the door, and has security cameras for eyes to keep an eye on your house. It even dances. What’s not to love?

Robots were all the rage at CES. LG is getting back into the U.S. vacuum business with the HomBot Turbo+, a Roomba-like machine that uses 360-degree cameras to create an augmented reality map of your house. You can view that map and pick which areas you want the HomBot to vacuum in the LG SmartThinq app, and the bot learns as it cleans so it won’t run into chairs or your pets. Like uBot, LG’s HomBot has cameras that can sense motion and send you an alert with a snapshot if something nefarious is going on. It might not be that helpful during a robbery, but at least you’ll have photographic evidence.

Every year I love checking out Whirlpool’s interactive kitchen of the future, a concept kitchen the appliance company designs just for CES to show what it has planned for your house. This year Whirlpool envisioned a kitchen counter that can display the nutritional content of your food on the interactive backsplash, which also integrates with your visual baby monitor and apps for checking the weather. Whirlpool also showcased a more practical innovation, an in-sink dishwasher than lets you clean small amounts of dishes without having to load (or unload) your full-size dishwasher.

The future looks cleaner, brighter, and a whole lot lazier - that’s technology I can get behind.

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Caitlin McGarry

PC World (US online)
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