Whether we want them or not, appliance makers seem hell bent on connecting their creations to the Internet, thereby making them “smart.” Samsung’s latest offering along those lines is a $5,800 touchscreen- and camera-equipped refrigerator, intended as the 21st century’s answer to the Post-It note-covered family fridge.
The centerpiece of Samsung’s (SSNLF) refrigerator, called the Family Hub, is a massive 21.5-inch touchscreen. It gives the appearance that the South Korean technology firm slapped a massive smartphone onto a refrigerator door. When activated, the screen becomes a shared space for posting digital sticky notes, viewing photos, and even watching television.
Samsung has shown off touchscreen fridges in the past, but this model offers a larger screen that runs more apps. (Yes, even our refrigerators have apps now. Two examples include Instacart and Groceries by MasterCard, both of which let you order groceries when you’re running low.)
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The Family Hub’s standout feature is its camera system. Combined with a smartphone app, the fridge’s three cameras give you a window into your fridge when you’re out at the store but you’ve forgotten if you need more ketchup. That’s potentially handy for the absent-minded among us.
The cameras also work with the fridge’s “Food Reminders” app, which lets you drag and drop expiration date reminders on various foods in the fridge. If you have a bundle of vegetables that expires in four days, for example, you could post a label on the foods to indicate they should be used within that time. The note automatically changes from day to day, meaning that four-day label would turn into a three-day reminder if the items haven’t been used by the following day.
It’s not the first fridge with a camera — LG showcased one in 2014 — but apps like Food Reminder make more use of this functionality. Still, we’re not quite at the holy grail of smart refrigerators. What some pine for is the fridge that can sense we’re low on Sriracha and place an order for us automatically.
Samsung Exec Explains the ‘Internet of Things’
While the Family Hub has potential, its asking price is far and away above what most families are likely willing to spend on a refrigerator. Those who desperately want a smarter fridge could find a cheaper alternative inWhirlpool’s $3,800 Smart French Door Refrigerator, which offers some Internet-powered convenience for thousands less.
Other technology firms are also hoping to prosper by adding Internet-based functionality into decidedly old-school technologies. Amazon, for example, recently unveiled a water pitcher it created with Brita that can automatically order new filters when needed.