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Highlights from AWE 2019

  • The Appliance and Electronics World Expo showcased everything we need to live in the age of artificial intelligence
  • The theme of for this year’s exhibition was ‘Falling In Love With AI Smart Life’

The Haier smart home module at the company’s experience centre at AWE 2019.
The Haier smart home module at the company’s experience centre at AWE 2019. (Nitin Sreedhar)

As far as technology exhibitions go, it is safe to say that the Appliance and Electronics World Expo (AWE) offers something different. The theme for this year’s exhibition (14-17 March), ‘Falling In Love With AI Smart Life’, was an opportunity to display innovations ranging from the latest in home appliances and consumer electronics to core components in the 5G ecosystem and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Think smart refrigerators, interactive education tools, vacuum cleaners that have a mind of their own and air conditioners (or purifiers) that sense your presence and direct the air flow in that direction—and smart home concepts to fit all this under one roof. Spread across 10 huge halls of the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, there was a lot on offer at Asia’s largest home appliance and consumer electronics expo. Here are some gadgets and innovations that caught our eye.

Carat designs VR software for kitchens.
Carat designs VR software for kitchens.

A translator on the go

One of the interesting innovations in the “Debut Street" area—a section dedicated to recently released innovations—was the JoneR Translator. Developed by the Beijing-based Babel Technology and Tsinghua University, JoneR aims to fix the problem of cross-lingual communication. It supports accurate voice translation in 53 languages and 73 regional accents.

JoneR’s standout feature, though, is its camera translation through OCR (optical character recognition). It can translate text captured through the camera in 15 languages: everything from road signs to menus. There’s also a flash to support the camera in low-light. The device works without the internet as well, thanks to offline translation features, which include two-way translations between Chinese, and Japanese, French, English, Korean and Russian.

Haier’s smart home move

Home automation is an important area of the IoT that everyone is trying to crack. Haier, the multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company, exhibited its smart home solutions at the expo.

The two-floor smart home module at the Haier Experience Centre showcased more or less the same features that dominate a typical smart home. The ground floor had a living room area, with a smart TV that acted as the main control hub for the entire home. The kitchen featured a smart refrigerator, complete with a touch-screen panel that would tell users about the condition of the ingredients inside. In one corner of the room was an automatic cloth folding machine, part of a bigger smart laundry system. All the appliances and areas can be controlled with the U+ smart home app.

“The challenge really is how quickly we can get his technology into India. This (smart home module) is interconnected and covers every aspect of a home, right from security, food, water, to refrigeration, etc. We will be targeting the metros first and are also looking at the middle- and upper-income (groups). I think that segment is pretty large in India. I would presume that it’s the 35- to 40- year-olds who would be IT savvy and up for something like this where the entire house is interconnected," said Eric Braganza, president, Haier India.

The first floor had even more impressive features. This included a bed that tracks vital signs like your heart rate, breathing rate and body movement, thanks to the MLILY smart mattress. The TV, located on top of the bed’s headstand, displays all this data—including a snore index, which is calculated with the MLILY anti-snoring pillow. This is different from other smart home concepts which tend to either display the information on the room’s ceiling or on smaller screens.

In the bathroom, the “magic mirror" tells users more about their vital signs. All you need to do is stand on a digital scale and enter some basic details (height, date of birth, etc.) into the mirror by tapping on it. The scale sends data to the mirror through Bluetooth: everything from your weight to your body mass index. A similar mirror is located near the wardrobe—to suggest dressing combinations for the person using the mirror.

The JoneR translator.
The JoneR translator.

VR in your kitchen

Kitchen designing has an exciting new extension in the form of virtual reality (VR). The Germany-based company Carat, one of the leading providers of professional kitchen design software, was founded in 1989 with the aim of developing effective kitchen design programmes. The latest in line is the Carat VR, which helps designer studios give customers a chance to experience their kitchens in an immersive manner.

At AWE, the company showcased the use of VR with the Oculus Rift headset. Once you have the headset on, it’s easy to move through your kitchen with the help of VR controllers. Apart from helping customers make decisions about their dream kitchen, the software also allows designers to make any recommended changes to the design and present it on the spot.

A Carat spokesperson said the company planned to move towards living room designing in the future.

The writer was in Shanghai at the invitation of Haier India.

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