The more the Consumer Electronics Show changes, the more it stays the same — and by “it,” we mean the internet-enabled refrigerator that can inevitably be found somewhere on the CES showroom floor.
I’m half-convinced that these things only exist to give tech reporters a reliable oddity to write about each year as an example of the sort of Jetsons-style nonsense we can expect from the future. “It’s just like the internet… but colder!”
The thing is, why not? The internet refrigerator is still a gimmick, but RFID, barcodes, QR codes, shopping comparison services, recipe services like Epicurious, grocery deliverers like PeaPod, and home networked audio systems like Sonos and AirPlay could converge to make it something you might actually want. To trot out the age-old example of how one might use this, the refrigerator of tomorrow might know you’re out of milk, and make sure that some shows up soon. And of course it would let you select new dinner music while grabbing that second bottle of white wine.
This year’s internet-enabled fridge arrives at CES from Samsung (just like last year’s), and it runs Android apps including Pandora, Epicurious, Twitter, Google Calendar, AP News, Weatherbug, and Picasa. The Pandora app allows you to stream your Pandora stations via Wi-Fi and even play them through speakers that are embedded in the refrigerator — because what you really need is crappy little speakers inside of every single one of your appliances.
Joking aside, perhaps the most salient thing about this year’s CES internet fridge is that it’s actually starting to make sense, and not just as a punchline about our connected future. Android and other app platforms have the versatility to let you control music throughout the house (i.e. not just on those surely subpar built-in speakers). In addition, the mainstream is becoming accustomed to running apps on other devices now (mainly phones, tablets, and televisions), so it might actually make sense to put a touchscreen control module at eye level in something like a refrigerator.
That said, Samsung’s 28-cubic-foot, four-door, Pandora-enabled fridge still costs $3500. Unless we can print money in the future too, it has a way to go before most reasonable people would want to buy one.