THE German capital is usually more associated with techno than technology but come early September that all changes thanks to The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, or IFA, as it is better known.
Over the years, the show’s combination of consumer gadgets and currywurst has seen it become one of the most significant dates in the tech calendar. This explains why it’s used as a platform for new and exciting product launches from tech giants to small start-ups in the world of TV, audio, smart appliances, smartphones and more.
Of course, we were there among the madness to bring you the top picks from this year’s show. In short, expect an onslaught of fresh gear that will inevitably tempt you into parting with your hard-earned cash when it’s all officially up for grabs.
These days, you can strap a bit of cardboard to your face for very little money and step into a virtual world. For the full immersive experience — and around £500 — there’s the trinity of high-end headgear: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR.
Microsoft’s VR and augmented-reality aspirations sees the tech giant attempt to bring VR to more faces for around £100 less with a bunch of Windows Mixed Reality headsets from the likes of Dell, Asus, Lenovo, Acer and HP.
The headsets feature near-identical features such as double 1,440×1,440 pixel LCD screens, a 95-degree field of view and flip-up visors, so the main differences are purely cosmetic.
Unlike their more expensive counterparts, they don’t need additional room sensors to track movement thanks to plug-and-play motion controllers and in-headset cameras that can recognise the room and track objects.
The headsets also play nice with standard Windows 10 PCs so won’t be limited to hardcore gaming machines, while playing Steam VR games out of the box means a healthy catalogue of games at launch too.
More excitingly, Microsoft says it’s laying the building blocks to introduce the world to its Hololens-style augmented reality and the merging of real and virtual worlds in real time — and we can’t wait.
The next wave of helper bots includes LG’s Lawn Mower Robot, which takes audible commands via Amazon and Google’s virtual assistants, and uses GPS to navigate its way around — and presumably help you track it down if someone’s pinched it from your lawn.
Neato’s Botvac D7 Connected vacuum cleaner can also be integrated into your smart home using the aforementioned assistants, your Apple Watch and even Facebook’s Neato ChatBot. It doesn’t require physical markers to set restrictions and, instead, takes an initial scan of your home to create a personalised plan allowing you to designate virtual ‘no-go’ areas within the Neato app.
Robot vacs make for handy helpers but they can’t mop floors — or can they? The creators of the Deebot Ozmo 930 claim this vacuum-mop combo sucks up dirt and wipes floors clean. It’s can also differentiate between carpet and hard surfaces, so you can let it roam safe in the knowledge it won’t destroy the carpet.
‘OK, Google, what’s the best voice assistant?’ Google Home will soon be joined by the likes of Sony’s LF-S50G, which will play your tunes while an LED display shows you when it’s all ears or processing your commands. What sets this speaker apart from the rest, however, is its touch-free gesture control, which enables you to draw a ring in mid-air above the speaker to adjust the volume or skip tracks by sliding your palm over the top.
Also in the Google camp is Panasonic’s classy-looking SC-GA10, which acts as your personal assistant and smart-home controller but sounds better than average doing it thanks to its focus on hi-fi quality audio performance.
Amazon’s Alexa has a few new third-party friends too, in the form of Harmon Kardon’s Allure, which packs serious audio chops thanks to its 360-degree speaker and built-in subwoofer. It features ambient lighting that reacts to voice commands.
If simple yet sophisticated is more your bag, Onkyo’s oval-shaped P3 smart speaker supports lossless multiroom wireless audio streaming from popular music services, with a control pad positioned at the top surrounded by an oval ring that lights up to indicate action. But if it’s visuals you’re after, Lenovo’s cylindrical Home Assistant Pack connects to a Tab 4 tablet to display visual info relevant to your questions and commands.
Samsung focused its efforts on two new devices to wrap around your wrist: the Gear Sport and the lighter Gear Fit2 Pro. Designed for seriously active types, the Sport has GPS, activity tracking and the ability to upload Spotify tracks directly to your watch so you can ditch your phone. It can also cast workout plans to your TV if you can’t be bothered to hit the gym.
The curved Gear Fit2 Pro has a smartphone-level AMOLED display that combines fitness functionality with the features of a smartwatch including apps and notifications, and — as with the Sport — will be the first to run Speedo’s app for swim tracking.
Sports watch maker Garmin revealed some new wristwear, including the Vivoactive 3, which takes on the guise of a traditional smartwatch and comes loaded with GPS, activity tracking and Garmin’s own Paytech for contactless payments. For more focused fitness, the Vivosport features a wrist-based heart monitor and built-in GPS, freeing you from your phone, while a bunch of pre-installed apps are on hand for cycling, cardio and other activities.
Panasonic wowed and confused Berlin in equal measures with its voice-controlled fridge, which will glide over to the sofa at your audible command to deliver beer and snacks. Not just for lazy types, the automated fridge could prove useful for those with disabilities.
Meanwhile, Panasonic’s Sustainable Maintainer could make laundry less of a chore with its ability to analyse individual items of clothing, cross-check the material against the manufacturer’s database to identify it, then determine how dirty it is to apply the optimal amount of detergent.
Bosch’s X-Spect offers a similar solution only in the form of a rectangular remote that detects fabric composition and scans stains in order to send the correct instructions you our nearby washer.
And if you’re into outlandish TVs, Loewe’s ultra-thin Bild X sits inside a skinny, gold-coloured frame designed to serve as the focal point of your living room, in a bold attempt to ‘de-geezer the television’.
Is it a TV or a fancy piece of art? That’s the optical illusion created by Samsung’s 4K TV, which features a library of 1,000 pieces of artwork and the ability to disappear into the decor.
BeoVision Eclipse TV
When you fuse LG OLED tech with Bang & Olufsen’s ostentatious soundbar stylings, expect a ‘look at me’ TV (in 55 or 65in sizes) with serious pedigree in its display.