Reflections on IFA: The prototyped future

IFA16 was a stimulation overload, so we've done you a favor by collecting our highlights and sorting them into easily digestible takeaways.
If you follow us on social media, you may have noticed that we were all over IFA this year. A group of our designers hit the grounds of what’s been dubbed “the world’s biggest trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances”, using cultural probes to analyze some of the stand out industry innovations into different categories. Here are a few products that caught the attention of our connected living Director Sven-Anwar Bibi, and designers Dominik Witzke, Johannes Roth, Michael Ognew and Pawel Bartosik. 
Connectivity: Prototyping human assistance


Sven’s pick: Mykie 

Mykie is a concept from BSH’s Home Connect, with which BSH is embarking into the world of personal assistants – this one is specifically for the kitchen environment. What’s different from Mykie and other home assistance technology is the interface – it’s a graphical plus LED interface. The interaction also stems beyond only speech being taken as the direct input and output of information. Mykie recognizes facial expressions, includes the option to project information onto the wall, and also brings users together to share kitchen experiences. 

Johannes’ pick: Samsung Family Hub refrigerator

A couple of companies presented fridges with a huge display as a control unit. I found Samsung’s version was the best executed because they really found some nice use cases for the large screen in the kitchen, such as the “morning brief”. This included a cluster of widgets like calendar events, mail and news in one clear screen.

Future vision: User centered technology


Dominik’s pick: Narrowband IOT

Telekom is providing a new technology called Narrowband IOT, which is designed for the future of smart and connected cities. In this use case it was presented as a sensor used to recognize if a parking space is free or occupied.

The technology uses the new 3GPP standard which requires less energy, so the sensor can work for 10 to 15 years without a new battery. All sensors are also connected to the cloud to simplify the search for a parking space. 

Sven’s pic: The Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer

This may have a lot to do with my background as a product designer, but I love Dyson. They have a very good business understanding and think carefully about what they put to market. Its new hairdryer is cool because it’s so user centered; all the weight is in the handle, rather than in the head of the hairdryer so it’s very easy to use. Plus, there’s the magic of dynamic air – you don’t see where it comes from. 

Newcomer: Convenient connectivity


Michael's pick: Sgnl

A group of old Samsung employees launched the startup Innomdle Lab, and have recently created a product that’s getting a lot of attention on kickstarter: a wristband that allows you to make a phone call with your finger when simply touching your ear. They use the well-known body/bone conduction technology – it’s designed to transmit vibrations through the hand, which become amplified sound upon one touching an ear. The special thing about this project is that it’s only a wristband or “smart strap” rather than a whole watch.

Although, you can attach your smart watch to the wristband. But this may end up with you having up to 3 devices in the end just to make a call: smart watch, smartphone and smart strap. And then you’ll have to recharge three different batteries…

Bigger is better


Pawel’s pick: Midea Beverly washing machine

The washing machine has an exotic (one may say space ship looking) design but the idea is well-considered. For loading the machine, the washing drum tilts upwards until it reaches an angle of 60°. The user can perfectly reach the laundry without having to bend down. It also allows you to pause the cycle and drop in clothes you may have forgotten without the risk of spilling out water. When it is back on, it returns to the normal angle.

Dominik’s pick: Tipron, the Transforming, Internet Connected Projection Robot

I wanted to mention this one because with all the home robots on display it’s important to look at what the real use cases are for this kind of technology. Especially one as large as Tipron, a home robot that can automatically project a 80-inch screen from a distance of 3 meters. It can change its height and size depending on whether it’s charging or shooting or projecting images. I guess the “selling point” is that it projects from many heights and angles, and that it automatically adjusts its own shape. But, do we really want a transformer that projects images around our homes?