Convergence rush reaches the kitchen

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen, somebody invented an Internet fridge. There is no escape...

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By  Will Strauss Published  October 16, 2000

There has been a great debate recently about the rights and wrongs of genetic engineering, with many people wondering why scientists would want to combine a goat with a sheep (which actually exists, going under the name of a 'Geep').

Now, the spirit of cross breeding seemingly unrelated species has hit the world of technology: the world's first Internet fridge will be shown off to the Middle East at this year's GITEX Dubai.

Combining the features of a PC with the body of a chiller cabinet, LG Electronics' Internet Digital DIOS refrigerator can be used to surf the web, make videophone calls and, of course, keep things cold.

"This is a quantum leap towards the tighter integration of white and information consumer electronics products to produce a new type of home appliance for the digital age," said Young H. Kim, LGE's president for the Middle East and Africa.

"It is the first time moving image communications technology, previously only available in multi-media products, has been used in a home appliance. The refrigerator has been transformed from a mere electronic appliance for storing food, to a total family entertainment and communications centre."

LG Electronics is clearly quite excited about the new product. A team of 55 people with a budget of US $1.25 million took three years to develop the fridge, described by Kim as "ground breaking."

Consumers, however, seem more confused about what is wrong with using a PC to access the Internet.

"I like to kick back and put my feet up when I'm on the web," said one regular 'Net user. "Why would I want to stand up in the kitchen?"

Web Toaster

The long-term prospects for web-ready household appliances are slightly more useful. Experts predict that the kitchen of the future will feature a range of intelligent devices.

Fridges will automatically check their contents, then order replacements over the Internet when supplies run low. You may also be able to telephone your oven from work, telling it to start cooking so your food is ready when you get home. And when Bluetooth really kicks off, you'll be able to start the kettle boiling by dialling it up from your mobile.

In the meantime, though, it's easy to say that the Internet fridge is simply technology for the sake of it. It comes equipped with a 15.1 TFT-LCD and its own LAN port to allow Internet shopping (for chilled food, perhaps?) and two-way videophone communication.

"Moreover, with a camera attached to the LCD, users can exchange video messages or even take photographs and then replay messages or pictures," said Kim. "The new refrigerator can also be used to watch TV or to send emails."

It also features touch-screen technology and an electronic pen that allows users to leave messages. There's even a schedule manager, which will remind people of birthdays and anniversaries when they pass by.

Top Shelf

The fridge itself is top of the range, too: "Thanks to the industry's first application of the inverter function to the two-door refrigerator, the Internet Digital DIOS has the world's lowest noise level of 23 decibels and the world's lowest power consumption at around 53 kilowatts per hour, about half that of global competitors," said Kim.

LG also boasts that the fridge automatically alerts the user "when the filter needs changing, so that the inside of the fridge can always be kept fresh and clean."

A quick poll of the staff at CommsMEA revealed not one person who even knew a fridge had a filter, let alone how to change one. Proof that either technology is getting carried away with itself, or the staff at CommsMEA aren't particularly domesticated.

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