Sunny and refreshing morning. First fallen leaves crushing under shoes. While in front of the old brick wall, a wrinkled man who seems as he has been standing there forever sells hot sausages – another wave of people marching up from the underground and beige taxis (Peugeot 404 among them) arrive stuffed with new passengers. Enthusiasts of technical news, journalists, and businessmen are gathering in Berlin on the world’s largest consumer electronics trade fair held from September 1 to September 6, 2017.
The tradition of the IFA reaches back to 1924. It is one of the best opportunities for both beginners and industry giants – to reveal their latest achievements and confront them with the user’s opinions. The 7th edition of the event, which featured the prototype of the television, was conducted by Albert Einstein himself; the spirit of innovation is alive. But is this, what attracts the crowd?
Virtual reality and a small talk with a fridge
At IFA you can find almost anything – from outstanding cable outlets, through Turkish toasters and juicers, up to interactive mirrors and projectors displaying images responsive to a human touch. The halls and flares of the fair are a little overwhelming – you are not able to see everything, and even if so, the intensity of the stimulus will go over your perception. The biggest attractions are the devices which were never seen before – prototypes or products still waiting for the release.
However, devices sold for several years are becoming more attractive when tested in extraordinary conditions. VR goggles are the perfect example – at IFA they are just everywhere. You can, experience a virtual mountain ride while sitting in a real vintage car, fight with game characters, or sink into meditation sitting on a massage chair. In each case, VR goggles deliver a lot of sensations especially attracting young people who set up in long queues to dive into the alternative reality. This years robots attract a lot of attention. Small-sized pets, blinking their sweet digital eyes beeing the smart home management centers at the same time. Also those larger – rather awe – humanoid robots serving as an airport advisors or a digital waiters.
We can clearly see that Internet of Things as a growing trend is absorbing more and more analog objects. Talking to fridges, or controlling your oven via smartphone is no longer a jaw dropper. Now you can get baby bottles that communicate through the application, or mirrors that analyze the condition of your skin and facilitate the selection of cosmetics.
The technology that impresses visitor the most is an interactive image display. Sony has shown refined prototypes of such projectors and their appliance in architecture, gastronomy, or music composing. Thanks to this device every flat surface can become a touch screen. Grundig has shown how to use a similar invention to operate the kitchen devices; an image displayed on a kitchen table allows you to start the espresso machine or adjust the mixer.
Texture, breath and a carrot leaf
An interesting trend which is commonly used in a vast number of devices shown at the fair – both in computer and hi-fi is the use of textiles as a casing material. Not long ago the wood was a novelty, and so we have wooden or wood-like cases for cell phones, etc. Today’s trend is textiles – used both in big devices (Bang & Olufsen) and small ones such as cell phones speakers, mouses or keyboards. Also, other natural materials such as moss, branches, wood often appear in the stands arrangement.
In the home appliance industry, we are witnessing a comeback of natural materials – glass instead of the plastic. A leader in this field is Grundig. As well as the last year, they presented Microgarden – oven-shaped device, allowing us to grow plants such as parsley, broccoli or beetroot in our home. Microgarden provides the optimal hydration and lighting conditions. Because of high eco-awareness, Grundig is also involved in the Respect Food social campaign, which aim is to reduce the waste of the food. On this occasion, the visitors of IFA could learn how to prepare meals from edible vegetable parts, peelings, radish or carrots leaves which normally are thrown away, and also taste them.
The need for proximity to nature is reflecting in an enormous number of devices. For example, those which simulate the sunlight – not only in the context of the gardening, but also to compensate the lack of sunshine to harmonize the daily rhythm, and to improve our mental health. As an addition, many manufacturers offer air purification equipment, as a part of the smart home system.
Another phenomenon in design is a turn-back to the 50’s. Such inspirations can be seen in the design of audio equipment and the stands arrangement. Device cases and retro furniture considered as icons of those times are perfect matches. Sony proudly presented its tube speakers, Technics – vinyl record players, and elsewhere Elvis and digital jukeboxes drawing the attention of the crowd. At IFA you will find dozens of perfect-sound seekers, and let’s be honest – they surely will find something interesting for them.
What is the quality of analog sound for audiophiles – the structure of the paper is for the professional draftsmen. Moving the tool on the screen or a tablet surface is not the same as plotting on a piece of a paper – and the Yoga Book manufacturers know that. This device digitizes drawings from the notebook and displays them on the huge screen next to it. It looks like magic… and it works!
Thinking of the 90s makes us nostalgic. Unforgettable icons of the times – Sony Walkman and the Polaroid camera returns in a great style, waking up vivid memories such as smile of Kevin from the “Wonderful Summer” series. Polaroid is now a digital camera with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and it prints photos instantly on special, expensive papers. The portable Walkman turned into a large and heavy audiophile gear based on analog components.
Interesting reference to the childhood memories and fairy tales about the princess at the castle is presented by Samsung: three-dimensional book, illustrating the features of Bixby – a voice assistant which is another persona in the family of artificial intelligence systems next to Siri or Alexa. Each spread of the book reveals a beautiful, spatial illustration with interactive points. When touched with a stylus, it launches information on the smartphone’s display.
Real news: “Startup Creative Square” and „IFA next”
„IFA next – the edge of innovation” is the source of fresh ideas and real innovation. It’s a separate part of the fair, where innovators and start-ups show their projects to a wider audience having the opportunity to establish business contacts or find sponsors. It is one of the most interesting places where you can find inventions opposing to trends, garage designs not affected by marketing research. You can find here colorful lights synchronizing to your mood, a toy which is telling the story based on a child’s suggestions or a super secret heat source hidden in a newspaper. IFA next is also the place where you can speak to the authors of the projects. The Samsungs Startup Incubator Program Creative Square is quite similar – but it is contributed to mobile technologies developers. The most interesting project is a robot following the posture of the body, thus help to make and maintain good habits, and balls for dogs, encouraging them to daily movement while staying alone.
You can get the impression that the purpose of this innovative race between biggest companies is to achieve a high level of:
Convenience – because devices supposed to be smart, help to manage boring activities,
Entertainment – continuous “wow” effect, search for new excitements and experiences. Although all of this devices are created for people – according to their needs, often their deep purpose is to fill the emptiness in their lives or compensates the lack of another human. Technology distances people from reality – the virtual world is after all very absorbent.A perfect illustration of this is a scary little attraction in the outer zone of T-Mobile relaxation space – beautiful, vintage style Alice in Wonderland alike carousel, full of people with VR goggles on it. On the other hand, an opposite trend is visible – humanity is trying to take a small step to return to what is real, while the electronic world speeds forward, looking back with nostalgic gaze.
author: Maja Żądło