Food-identifying fridges? Virtual kitchen controls? Range hoods with a sense of smell? Bosch brought everything but the kitchen sink to Europe's largest, strangest tech show.
Ry CristSenior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Each September, the world of tech turns its eyes to Berlin for the IFA tech showcase -- and most years, the 132-year-old German manufacturer Bosch proudly puffs up its chest and claims home court advantage with a barrage of shiny new gizmos and appliances.
This year, Bosch didn't disappoint. Its corner of the convention center was packed with new, ooh-and-aah-worthy tech -- most of which will likely never see the light of day in the US in spite of the fact that Bosch is an American retailer, too. Still, with several notable smart home announcements and a couple of eyebrow-raising appliances, Bosch is always a brand worth paying attention to. Here's a rundown of the most interesting things it announced.
Meet the Black Mirror kitchen?
Flashy, luxurious new appliances are always the heavy-hitters at these things, and Bosch left little on the ideas board for IFA this year. Front and center: A new lineup of luxury appliances in attractive, matching "Carbon Black" finishes featuring reflective glass faces. These include a refrigerator, a wall oven, a countertop range, an automatic coffeemaker, a microwave, a dishwasher and even a fancy drawer dedicated to sous vide cooking.
Many of these appliances include features aimed at smartening up your cooking routine. For instance, the countertop range includes newly updated PerfectCook and Perfect Fry smarts designed to automatically track and regulate the temperature of whatever you're cooking. Fry up some potatoes and the range will make sure the pan doesn't get too hot. Boil some pasta and the range will make sure the pot doesn't boil over. As a fairly clumsy home cook, I'd welcome the help -- provided it works as promised.
On top of that (literally) is a smart range hood with a feature called PerfectAir that essentially gives the thing a sense of smell. If it detects any particularly odorous molecules lingering in the air after you fry fish, for instance, it'll automatically kick on the fan to help clear the air. Meanwhile, the oven uses the same PerfectBake and PerfectRoast settings we've seen previously to smarten up your cooking routine using a built-in thermal probe.
All of it syncs up with Bosch's HomeConnect app to let you control settings remotely. Partnerships with the European food delivery service Eismann and the Kitchen Stories recipe app also offer seamless, step-by-step cooking assistance that syncs straight with your appliances.
It's one of the most complete and cohesive visions for the connected kitchen that I've seen to date, but there's no sign that people are rushing out to upgrade to connected appliances en masse. Universally luxurious looks across the board might help encourage some upper-crust households to make the jump, but something tells me Bosch's vision might yet be a year or two ahead of its time. We'll see what Europe thinks when the appliances hit select retailers throughout the continent -- pricing and timing are still yet to be announced.
Specifically, Bosch's camera fridges will now be able to identify up to 60 different kinds of fruits and vegetables on sight. From there, the fridge will add them to your digital inventory and even offer item-specific advice on the best spots to store everything to prolong the freshness.
The Bosch smart kitchen Americans can't have at IFA 2018
A Bosch representative tells me that the feature is based entirely on AI software in the Bosch cloud, which is how the brand is able to offer it to its entire existing catalog of camera-equipped smart fridges. Bosch also tells us that the fruits and veggies are just a first step towards the obvious goal of a fridge that can recognize anything you put into it.
Keep an eye on this feature as it evolves and gets smarter. Once smart fridges know what's inside without any input from humans, they'll be able to offer things like custom-tailored recipe suggestions and automatic shopping list reminders. The category has yet to really pull people in, but Bosch might be taking a notable step toward a point where that changes.
Virtual cooking controls on your countertop?
With touchscreen fridges and the growing popularity of devices like the Amazon Echo Show and the Lenovo Smart Display, we're seeing screens play a larger and larger role in the connected kitchen. Bosch jumped way ahead of that curve at IFA with a new gadget called the "PAI," which stands for "projection and interaction."
Like the name suggests, PAI is a projector that casts a full-color touchscreen display directly onto your countertop. The display features a variety of apps -- everything from recipe guidance and smart home control to email and Flipboard -- and since there's no actual screen or electronics, you won't really have to worry about smudging anything other than your counter itself if your fingers are dirty from cooking.
Like the rest of the new Bosch gadgets, pricing and retail availability isn't locked in just yet. I wonder how much appeal it'll have, though -- counterspace is precious in most kitchens, and not everyone has smooth, light-colored countertops. Still, points for creativity.
Colorful stand mixers available in a wide variety of shades
An indoor garden planter for growing your own herbs
A water-powered "FreshBox" cooler capable of lowering the temperature inside by up to 10 degrees C (about 18 F) without ice
New "VitaMaxx" vacuum-sealing blenders that promise smoother smoothies and stronger flavor
A battery-powered "Twist" smart home control display with 32 built-in functions
An app-enabled, table-top air quality sensor
Don't forget laundry day
Bosch definitely didn't. In fact, its new washer dryer might be the most interesting of all of the new appliances the brand debuted today -- especially if you hate puzzling over which cycle to use for which garment. Bosch's big idea: Let the machine figure it out.
And that's precisely what it does. Stuff a load of laundry inside and the appliance will detect the type of clothing, then choose the best cycle. It'll then figure out exactly how much detergent your load needs and dispense the stuff itself with a feature called "i-Dos" that Bosch claims is accurate to the milliliter and capable of helping to cut your detergent use down to the minimum needed. Plus, as a combo washer and dryer, the standalone unit can pick the right cycle for drying your clothes, too.
All of that sounds well and good, if not downright fantastic, but the big question is "how well does it work?" After all, if the thing miscalculated even once and ruined my favorite pair of striped socks, I know I'd be tempted to haul it back to the home goods store.
That's the high bar that Bosch is trying to pole vault over top of with everything it introduced today. With cloud-based, AI smarts dictating more and more of the decisions in Bosch's vision for the connected living space, the future of the smart home seems closer to the automated, gee-whiz, Jetsons lifestyle than ever before. Just don't expect a canned laugh track if things go wrong and these flashy new appliances end up burning people's dinners -- and their bank accounts, too.
To that end, we'll keep an ear out for prices and retail dates on all of the new stuff, then pass that info along as soon as we have it. And, should any of this new tech start to creep its way into American Bosch-branded appliances, CNET's Kentucky test lab will be all over that, too.
IFA 2018: Everything we've seen so far at Europe's biggest tech trade show.