Does the world need a live video feed of the contents of its refrigerators?
It’s a debate many years in the making. In 1998, Alex van Es wired a 100-year-old house in the Netherlands with all kinds of “smart” features he could access remotely — his now 18-year-old Quantified Fridge is still running to this day (“Better go catch it!”).
But technology has come a long way in the interim. Earlier this year, Wired highlighted the rivalry between the two South Korean electronics giants LG and Samsung and how this competition has led to a lot of breakthroughs in household appliance technology. At January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, both companies debuted smart fridges they hoped would dazzle the market.
The goal of this category has been the same since the first commercial Internet fridge by LG was launched in 2000: connecting the user to a digitally filed shopping list. Ever since, manufacturers have struggled to make the concept enticing enough to attract consumers … until now.
Samsung’s solution is to put cameras on the inside, showing you pictures of what you have and what you don’t when you’re not home (or, you know, at the store). The fridge’s touchscreen has a syncable calendar, notepad and photographic display. It can also play music from Pandora or TuneIn, offer TV mirroring (an app that will mirror a Samsung TV that’s on the same Wi-Fi network) and connect to online recipes.
It could work.
The smart fridge category has thus far missed the mark when it comes to what end users demand from the Internet of Things: function first, novelty second. The right kind of smart appliances do not force us to change our behaviors and lifestyle, but rather adapt to accommodate them.
Samsung’s effort seems to be moving in the right direction, but can it overcome 16 years of consumer indifference?
The answer’s in the fridge. Maybe you just need to see it.
Main image via Samsung