By Paula Rothman
BU News Service
LAS VEGAS—On Wednesday, Korean tech giant LG announced its next generation of home appliances with synchronized flashing red-lights, wall-to-wall screens and a stage with hidden doors.
The presentation’s stars included a new smart refrigerator featuring a camera and voice-activated system powered by Amazon’s Alexa, a new line of home robots, and a 2.57 millimeter thick OLED TV (“wallpaper-thin,” in the company’s words).
Opening the stage, LG’s president and Chief Technology Officer Skott Ahn gave a brief overview of the company’s future. “Customer expectations are rising and technology trends like artificial intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things) and the cloud are evolving fast,” he said, adding that LG is currently working on several smart home applications, such as robots for elderly care.
David VanderWaal, vice president of marketing, announced that starting this year, all of LG’s home appliances will feature advanced Wi-Fi connectivity. Every new item sold by LG will be connected to the Internet and come with the company’s DeepThinkQ technology, enabling each item to learn from its owner’s patterns.
Air conditioning systems, for example, will know the optimal room temperature for every area of the house. LG’s Robot Vacuum already comes with a feature called object recognition, which allows it to differentiate a table from a person: When it approaches a pair of human legs, the robot will ask the person to move.
LG’s big reveal in the smart home context was the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, which comes with LG’s WebOS operating system, the same used one used to control its smart TVs. The double door fridge has a 29-inch, 1080p display that works like a giant tablet: it has a touchscreen and allows you to play music, write notes and look at recipes. Because it is connected to your personal devices, the fridge can also pop up birthday and anniversary reminders on its’ screen.
Smart Instaview, which is powered by Amazon’s Alexa, also responds to voice commands. On stage, Mike George, vice president of Eccho, Alexa and AppStore at Amazon, demonstrated how you can add milk to a virtual shopping cart or even ask the fridge how many calories a piece of chicken has. The fridge won’t talk back, but the answers will appear on the display.
There is also a geeky feature that allows you to see the shelves without opening the doors. The Panorama View Camera inside the fridge can send live images to your phone, which work as a useful reminder of what you need and don’t need to buy at the supermarket.
As LG moves towards a completely connected home environment, it is also deploying a new assistant to integrate all these features: Hum-Boot, a cute robot that works the same way Google Home or Amazon Eccho do. Things you can do with it: You talk to it, play music or set the air temperature, among other things.
Its bigger version is over 4-feet-tall and is designed specifically to function as an airport assistant. Insert your ticket into Airbot and it will tell you your boarding time, how to get to your gate and what the weather is like at your destination.
Building up for the grand finale of the show, VanderWaal announced new improvements in the company’s LCD displays — what LG is calling “nano cell display technology.” It will allow for more realistic, brighter colors. Another new feature is the HDR Effect Mode, a technology that will help process and analyze images more efficiently in order to obtain greater contrast.
Other announcements included a 4K Blu-Ray player and a potentially great audio improvement on their 2017 OLED TVs, as LG is now working with Dolby Laboratories to embed the Dolby Atmos sound technology in its native TV speakers.
Before ending the presentation, LG finally introduced what everyone was expecting: A brand new TV. As it slowly rolled from the backstage, a strong reaction rippled through the audience. The Signature Oled TV W, or Wallpaper TV, is 2.57 millimeters thick and comes with magnetic brackets to be attached on the wall. It’s so thin that, for a moment, you really do believe it’s just floating.