The coolest, best and strangest tech of IFA 2017

If you want all the hottest new tech gathered in one place, you want IFA. 


CNET spent the week in Berlin for this year’s edition of the long-enduring tech trade show to find out what we’ll be talking about over the next 12 months.

IFA 2017 featured companies coming up with a vast range of increasingly connected, increasingly smart and increasingly voice-controlled devices. Amazon’s Alexa dominated the show by appearing in a wealth of products that talk back to you, while products in the burgeoning smart home section ranged from the very useful to the increasingly wacky (like appliances with multiple doors and a mobile mini fridge that trundles round after you). 

Voice control

As with CES back in January, Alexa has been the talk of the show, so to speak. We’ve counted 24 products (so far) introducing Alexa support here. Third-party device support for Alexa has flourished in the US, and the trend appears to be continuing in Germany. You can ask smart speakers, docks and TVs like the Lenovo Home Assistant or Toshiba 4K tellies to play music or movies, or you can order robots like the Bosch Roxxter vacuum and LG Lawn Mower to take care of your chores. Here’s a full list of Alexa-powered products.

Amazon also announced this week that Alexa will soon be able to talk to Microsoft’s Cortana, a rival voice system. A few products also opted to integrate multiple voice systems: The Moto X4 and LG V30 smartphones, for instance, offer Alexa as well as Google Assistant. Here’s a list of Google Assistant devices from IFA.

Then there’s audio brand Harman, which has elected to put Alexa into the high-end Harman Kardon Allure speaker and Google Assistant into the cheaper JBL Link — make of that what you will.

Phones

If you’re an aspiring or full-time YouTuber or Instagrammer, the LG V30 may be the phone for you thanks to its nifty video and photo features.

For the rest of us, the feature-packed Moto X4 does a little bit of everything. It has two cameras (with flash for selfies), water-proofing, Amazon Alexa and Bluetooth that connects to four speakers or headphones to get the party started.

Moto’s X4 makes Bluetooth amazing again

The Moto X4 is more than just the first Motorola phone with Amazon’s Alexa app, it’s also the first phone to be able to wirelessly stream music to up to four devices simultaneously.

by Kent German

And while voice-controlled smartphones are hurtling into the next generation of interface, you’ll be pleased to hear BlackBerry is catching up with the last generation, announcing an all-touchscreen phone for later this year.

Virtual, augmented, mixed reality

Let’s get real for a moment — but are we talking virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality? Various new headsets were launched at IFA to give you a range of VR, AR and MR.

Asus, Acer, Dell and HP are all producing Windows Mixed Reality headsets, but Lenovo’s Explorer sounds like the most fun. It has scored a deal to create a lightsaber controller for Star Wars Jedi swordfights in VR. 

Smart homes

The appliance side of the show held a few surprises. Laundry care was a major highlight at almost every large-appliance booth. Samsung’s QuickDrive washing machine claims to wash a standard load of clothes in half the time and with less energy than traditional washers. Electrolux says its PerfectCare washer and dryer lineup will clean clothes you’d normally need to send out for dry cleaning.

In addition to its own “whisper quiet” washing machines, Bosch also demonstrated a concept device called X-Spect. It’s a handheld scanner for both laundry and food items that determines what they’re made of and then sends cleaning or cooking instructions, respectively, to appliances around your home.

Bosch’s X-Spect scanner concept is like a tricorder for your clothes

This handheld scanner from Bosch has potential as a laundry assistant and even a nutrition aid.

by Rich Brown

For the kitchen, Miele’s Dialog oven was one of the most impressive things we saw here. It uses a combination of electromagnetic waves, a convection fan and traditional radiant heating elements to cook food with impressive precision. One demo included putting a whole filet of salmon in the oven, but then only cooking one half of it (the other half was prepared ceviche-style). That’s a Europe-only design for now.

Haier also showed off a refrigerator with five — yes, five — doors.

Robot vacuums were everywhere. The Miele Scout RX2 and Bosch Roxxter stand out for their built-in cameras. Not only can they clean your house, they also work as security devices that transmit a live video feed from inside your home.

Special props go to Panasonic. Its Sustainable Maintainer laundry and Movable Fridge concepts might never become products you see at the store, but it’s hard not to love a fridge that will roll up to you and deliver cold sake.

Headphones, earbuds and AirPod competitors

Wires are so last century. Encouraged by Apple’s ditching of the traditional headphone jack in recent iPhones, audio manufacturers launched a range of wireless headphones and earbuds at IFA.

Many have features Apple’s AirPods don’t have. Samsung led the way with new Icon X earbuds boasting improved battery life and a heart rate monitor, not to mention a striking hot-pink option.

The wireless Sony WF-1000X earpods also include active noise cancelling, another feature Apple can’t match.

If you don’t trust entirely wireless earbuds or just have funny shaped lugholes, we saw a few sets of neckband headphones like the Sony WI-1000X, or Jabra Elite 25e with Siri and Google Assistant. Neckband headphones are perfect if you want to both enjoy wireless freedom and look like a massive dork.

Computers, laptops and tablets

One piece of big news is the arrival of a wave of laptops with eighth-generation Intel Core processors. Asus, Acer and Dell are all making devices containing the fateful eight.

The Acer Predator Orion 9000 is also big news — and that’s meant literally because it’s massive. It lights up, it’s super-powerful and it’s got wheels.

Acer went to the other extreme with the Switch 7 black edition, a slender tablet that somehow finds room for discrete Nvidia MX150 graphics. Other thin devices include the Lenovo Yoga convertibles and Asus Zenbook Flip 14.

Other stuff

  • Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro and Gear Fit Sport swim-proof fitness watches
  • Bang Olufsen BeoVision Eclipse OLED television with motorized stand and built-in soundbar
  • Acer Holo360 360-degree camera
  • DJI Mavic Pro Platinum drone with redesigned propellers that reduce noise and increase flight time
  • Logitech keyboard with a special dial for Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator

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