Top 5 Innovations: Live From IFA 2014

Berlin-based electronics show IFA is playing host to a range of innovations this year. From conceptual advances like virtual reality to practical and design-led applications for wearables and the connected home, here are our top five tech trends.

3D Computing

Intel is showcasing early applications of its RealSense technology, which uses depth sensors to create 3D interfaces for computing, so that users can reach into holograms and control them with their hands. A scanner application allows facial scanning – which Intel hopes will put an end to text-based passwords by 2020 – and can be used to quickly render accurate 3D scans of people and objects, which can then be converted to 3D printing files and sent to a local printer to be made.

The technology can also sense the height, width and depth of objects using its 3D cameras – so will have wide-ranging implications for interior design. Intel aims to incorporate some of these applications into its products by holiday 2014, with further launches in 2015.

Virtual Reality

One of the biggest announcements of the fair is Samsung’s Gear VR, a virtual reality headset that works with the brand’s Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. The phone docks inside the headset to provide sound, visuals and processing power for the experiences – which are impressively immersive. Demos at the show include music concerts, games and Marvel’s Avengers experience, in which you are placed inside Tony Stark’s laboratory.

The headset is the first virtual reality device to be available to consumers, and is expected to launch in time for Christmas.

Curved Screens

Developed to offer a more cocooning viewing experience, curved 4K screens are on show at every major TV brand’s stand this year. Going a step further, Samsung and LG are both showcasing bendable screens that can flex from flat to curved in a matter of seconds.

The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge applies a curved surface to a smartphone, and provides a convincing use for the innovation: the curved edge acts as a toolbar for news and updates, and functions as a clock and alarm clock so that users don’t have to pick up their phone during the night, but instead can see notifications scrolling over the rounded edge.

Home Robots

After 16 years of research and development, Dyson has entered the robot vacuum cleaning sector with a small but smart robot that scans the room with 3D sensors before it begins cleaning. It uses this data to track where it has been and where it needs to go, working in  a spiral from the centre of the room outward.

There were also notable showcases from Korean company Future Robot, which offers penguin-shaped robots for edutainment and human-scale robots to act as info boards and helpers, and WowWee, which specialises in tabletop robot butlers that can play games and deliver drinks.

The Connected Home

By 2018, there will be 45 million smart homes installed worldwide, Samsung CEO BK Yoon stated in his keynote. In these smart homes, objects will be able to communicate with owners’ smartphones, and with each other, to maximise efficiency, safety and convenience. For now, consumer interest in this technology is still relatively low, so companies are working hard to make the concept more appealing by collaborating on apps – Siemens and Bosch have teamed up to offer HomeConnect – and by creating practical accessories such as smart sockets and smart Thermostats that introduce the idea in an accessible way.

Sen.se‘s smart home set can convert any object into a smart object. The system comprises a Russian doll-shaped control centre (called Mother) and a set of four uniquely named Motion Cookies, which clip onto objects or slot into pockets to track usage and activity. The Cookies can be moved about as needed, so that they could tune a Thermostat or monitor the front door by day, and then facilitate a family toothbrushing competition in the evening.

Wearables Become Wearable

There has been a lot of discussion in both the fashion and technology industries about how to make wearable tech (such as smartwatches and Google Glass) desirable for the fashion-conscious; Intel’s new collaboration with Barneys and Opening Ceremony is one example of the partnerships being forged to tackle this challenge. At IFA, manufacturers are combining the tactility and craftsmanship of traditional watches with the technology of wearables to bridge the gap between the old and the new.

With its leather strap, metallic detailing and analogue face, the only hint that Withings Swiss-made Activité watch tracks exercise is the steps gauge in the corner of the display. Misfit‘s Shine pairs a tracker with a leather strap, and the ASUS Zen watch has a pared-back black and white face design.

Homebuildlife subscribers will be able to access all our photos live from the show this week, followed by our full reports on innovations and colour, material and finish trends for home appliances, technology and beyond.

– Sarah Housley


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