‘Gifted’ high-tech takes spot­light at Ber­lin’s IFA fair


BER­LIN — The gad­gets on dis­play at Ber­lin’s mega con­sumer elec­tron­ics fair this week may not look rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent, but they are smarter than ever be­fore and de­signed to meet our ev­ery need — of­ten be­fore we’ve even thought of it our­selves.

As smart­phones and other elec­tronic de­vices make greater use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI), the dig­i­tal as­sis­tants al­ready per­va­sive in our lives are set to be­come more in­tu­itive and play a big­ger role in our homes, ob­servers said.

The hum­ble tele­vi­sion, over­shad­owed in re­cent years as view­ers streamed their fa­vorite shows on tablets and phones, is also poised for a come­back with bet­ter-than-ever screen qual­ity and on­line ap­pli­ca­tions.

“AI (is go­ing) to make our daily life eas­ier,” Klaus Boehm of con­sul­tancy Deloitte said ahead of the an­nual six-day trade show which kicks off Fri­day.

Mr. Boehm pointed to Ama­zon’s and Google’s voice-con­trolled speak­ers that can an­swer ques­tions, turn off the lights and do our on­line shop­ping as prime ex­am­ples of the “smart home” trend.

And in the race to be the smartest, devel­op­ers are fo­cussing not on hard­ware, but on more in­tel­li­gent soft­ware to woo con­sumers.

Such is the em­pha­sis on AI this year that Chi­nese smart­phone man­u­fac­turer Huawei, the world’s third largest, will use the IFA stage not to present a new model but to un­veil its first per­sonal as­sis­tant, hop­ing to ri­val the dom­i­nance of Ama­zon’s Alexa, Ap­ple’s Siri and Sam­sung’s Bixby.

From of­fer­ing restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tions be­fore you’ve re­al­ized you’re hun­gry to ask­ing if you’d like your usual cof­fee af­ter your alarm goes off, life with­out smart aides will fast be­come un­think­able, ob­servers pre­dict.

As the long-promised rev­o­lu­tion of the “in­ter­net of things” is slowly mak­ing it­self felt, IFA ex­hibitors are also set to show­case rub­bish bins that know which items to re­cy­cle and fridges that can help you stick to your diet. Smart TVs that re­spond to voice com­mands and al­low for easy on-de­mand view­ing are ex­pected to help re­claim the telly’s place at the heart of the home as view­ers are lured back with su­per-high­def­i­ni­tion screens. And of course, big­ger is bet­ter. “TV is not dead,” said Roland Stehle of Ger­many’s gfu fed­er­a­tion for elec­tron­ics firms, a co-or­ga­nizer of the IFA trade show.

“Peo­ple are buy­ing big­ger TV sets, so the pic­ture sizes are in­creas­ing and it’s nec­es­sary to have a high res­o­lu­tion.”

IFA or­ga­niz­ers are pre­dict­ing a bumper year for tele­vi­sion mak­ers, as the lat­est OLED and Ul­tra-High Def­i­ni­tion (UHD/4K) tech­nolo­gies be­come more af­ford­able.

Gfu es­ti­mates that the av­er­age buyer is now will­ing to fork out be­tween €800 and €900 ($950-$1,100) for a new tele­vi­sion. —

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