The consumer electronics we buy today are very different to the ones we bought just five years ago. That’s because technology has evolved, and features that were once exclusively in the realm of science fiction are appearing in all sorts of consumer electronics and household appliances that are available for purchase today.
We may not be at the stage where everyone drives flying cars and has housekeeping robots, but we’re making good progress on other fronts, and that is bringing us closer to the kind of high-tech futures imagined by futurists over the last 80 years.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular is advancing at a rapid pace. Right now, it’s being used in experimental ways to make interacting with our world easier and more fluid than it’s ever been, and in 2020, you’ll find it in everything from cars to smartphones to cameras, all with the aim of enhancing human lives by making our technology easier and more convenient to use.
While we’re not at a point where AI is absolutely everywhere – it’s still scary, we don’t trust it, and it’s not advanced enough yet – we are at a point where even everyday home appliances use it to be more effective than ever, and to make our lives better through that process.
Hlulani Baloyi, national trainer at LG South Africa, knows all about this. LG has long been building compute power and sensors into their appliances, and these, coupled with artificial intelligence, are changing how those products do their jobs.
I interviewed Baloyi recently, and he had this to say about it all.
“Right now, AI is still in its infancy, and is primarily used to automate tasks so that humans don’t have to do them. While this is a very basic function, in the appliance space, that’s all that’s needed to seriously enhance appliance functionality,” explains Baloyi.
“Today, thanks to built-in AI, we have washing machines that adjust how they wash clothes to achieve the best results, TVs that automatically adjust picture and sound quality so the viewer always gets the best experience, and cell phones that use it to enhance the photos they take,” he adds.
“These are just three examples of the tasks AI is helping with, but it’s clear to us that these seemingly small advances have big impacts on consumers’ quality of life. That’s something we take very seriously, and we work hard to bring these advances to more people every day,” Baloyi continues.
LG also has a range of internet-connected refrigerators that have built-in computers; these connect to sensors to determine what’s in the fridge right now, and can go so far as to alert you that you need milk when there’s none present.
Some internet-connected LG fridges can also order groceries automatically if you set them up to do that. They use their own built-in logic and sensors that tell them when it’s necessary. That’s one function that could have really come in handy during the COVID-19 pandemic!
Some of LG’s refrigerators can even send a snapshot of what’s on the shelves to your phone, so you can get a live view of what’s in the fridge right now when you’re at the supermarket. Far easier than making a phone call to your significant other.
“LG has been dabbling with automated functionality in fridges for years now,” says Baloyi.
“These appliances have not made their way to South African shores yet, but we hope to bring them here someday, as they have the potential to further enhance the lives of South Africans. Right now our market does not fully support some of those functions, however, but we are working every day to change that,” Baloyi adds.
A future to look forward to
I, for one, look forward to a world in which I don’t have to remember how to set my washing machine to make sure my colours don’t run when I wash my clothes, or one in which I don’t need to spend time tweaking my TV’s image quality to suit whatever I am watching.
That said, currently these features are mostly found in premium products, which not everyone can afford; I dream of a day when AI-powered features are commonly found in more affordable entry-level products.
I think TV shows and movies have scared most of us into believing that super advanced artificial intelligence is a bad thing that’ll lead to the destruction of the human species. And who knows, maybe it will.
But right now, AI is still very much an emerging technology, and the ways it’s being put to use are quite helpful. So for the moment it’s making make life easier, not worse.
Long may that last.