BERLIN—The sprawling IFA tech show here draws in a vast universe of gadgets. Most of these represent incremental advances on existing devices that anybody could have predicted would show up here. But some have come from a different, far less predictable place.
Consider these seven items I found on show floors and product exhibits here.
Acer Predator Thronos
Acer saved its oddest IFA news for the end of its press conference here Wednesday morning: the Predator Thronos. A nearly 5-foot tall “motorized cockpit” that incorporates an Acer gaming rig, a padded chair that vibrates and rumbles to match the action in the game and an overhead arm that suspends three 27-inch LCDs. You climb in, press a button to lower the screens, slap on some headphones and press another button to recline the assembly as far as 140 degrees.
Acer hasn’t announced a price for the Thronos, but if you’ve already set up a game cave with enough room for this contraption, price may not be an object anyway.
Lenovo Yoga Book C930
This two-in-one laptop can be folded up for use as a tablet or left open like a laptop, but instead of a keyboard, its bottom half features an electronic-ink, or e-ink, display. At 10.8 inches across, the e-ink screen can display a keyboard or be used as a drawing surface. The difficulty of typing on that surface without the usual tactile feedback of a physical keyboard suggests this would work best when used for reading rather than writing.
Listening to music and videos, however, will be an issue. The company opted to ship this €999 device without a headphone jack. Memo to the gadget industry: This is an idiotic habit you’re developing. Please stop.
If the prospect of having to carry dongles to keep using your existing wired headphones has you grumpy, maybe a cute little robot dog can cheer you up? A dozen years after discontinuing the original Aibo, Sony announced in August that it was rolling out a new and improved Aibo. Due to go on sale in September at an initial price of $2,899, Aibo is quite the cutie. It’s got mechanized ears, a tail that wiggles if you scratch him on his back or below the chin and OLED displays in his eyes that let him look at you.
He comes programmed to respond to basic commands, and can learn his owner’s face and his home’s surroundings over time.
The One in this phone’s moniker refers to its status as an Android One phone, meaning it ships with a stock version of the Google-powered (GOOG, GOOGL) operating system, and will get its updates direct from Google instead of making users wait for delivery from the phone vendor.
It also comes with a decent set of specs including a 5.9-inch screen, a 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, 64GB of storage, fingerprint-recognition and even a headphone jack. Alas, one feature it lacks is plans for U.S. availability. Lenovo’s Motorola subsidiary only plans to sell this €299 device outside of America.
Yolk Solar Cow
From across a crowded exhibit showcase, this looked like a solar charger that was simply larger than most. I had to approach it to realize that the metal frame holding it up was shaped in the outline of a cow, and that the detachable, cylindrical battery packs the panel charged were all mounted at the bottom of the frame—yes, exactly where you’d find a cow’s udder.
The idea behind this bovine project is to provide convenient and, I guess, memorable power in developing countries. Yolk, a developer of various solar chargers, is subsidizing this effort by selling “SunMade Cheese,” a lineup of cheese-shaped chargers and lanterns that can plug into a small solar panel. I can’t predict if their Kickstarter will secure sufficient backing, but I do suspect this will do very well in Wisconsin.
I found another intersection of taste and tech in this alarm clock, which wakes you not with sounds but with scents. Sensorwake’s upcoming Trio, $99 at Indiegogo for November delivery, uses $5, 30-use cartridges to fill your bedroom with such aromas as cappuccino, chocolate, mint or fresh-cut grass.
Why not the obvious wake-up odor of bacon? Chief operating officer Alexandre Thenevin said they’d tried that but opted to discontinue that cartridge because its olfactory output was, in his words, “[expletive] awful.” Maybe they can fix that in a later version?
Disclosure: IFA’s organizers are covering most of my travel expenses and those of a group of U.S. journalists and analysts.
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