IFA 2012 inside guide: crazy products, brilliant humans

Our photo gallery takes you inside Berlin's IFA tech fair to show you some weird sights and interesting people.

Luke Westaway
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Welcome to IFA, the hauntingly huge tech trade show that takes place in Berlin at the start of September each year. A smorgasbord of new consumer gadgets, this annual event grants ordinary punters a chance to ogle upcoming technology, and shatters the minds of exhausted journalists like an unseen rock crashing through the hull of a fibreglass boat.

We've already brought you news of every major product to come out of IFA this year, from the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 to the Sony Xperia T, and all-new Windows 8 devices such as the Asus Vivo Tab RT.

We haven't made much mention of the show itself however, partly because the big stuff keeps us busy, and partly because we're not so vain as to think you particularly care where we are when we bring you hands-on photos, videos and all the rest.

But if you're hankering to know what it's like inside the airy halls of IFA, click through the photos above to see some of the weird tech on show as well as the people I met as I roamed the carpeted halls -- both ordinary tech fans and show employees. You'll also get a glimpse of the bizarre tactics tech companies employ to grab your attention.

Standing for days in the plush-carpeted, sawdust-filled caverns of IFA isn't easy work, but everyone I spoke to seemed extremely relaxed. Julian is one such IFA foot solider -- his job for the next few days involves greeting new arrivals to the show, dressed partially as a robot, and handing out flyers for hard-to-pronounce appliance-monger Haier.

"A lot of people you'll meet today will probably be through an agency that big companies like Miele or Samsung hire out personnel from for odd jobs," the extremely friendly Julian -- who's from Australia and is at uni in London -- tells me.

Julian is studying civil engineering, but is working the show during his break from university. "It's good, it's not the best pay but it's pay for something unskilled so I suppose it's alright," says Julian, who's studying civil engineering. "People take photos of this costume I'm wearing. At the end of the day you do have business people that look look down on you," he says, but notes, "the general public's generally quite good.

"I get a lot of sympathy looks! But other than that, no it's good. It's a decent job."

Moving on, I had a brief chat with the very polite Henk family, who were visiting the show together. I asked if there were any companies whose products were particular keen to examine, and the answer came back -- Sony and Samsung.

Normally crammed with bored-looking business types, I was surprised at the broad range of visitors to the show. Michelle, Marten and Julian are in the same class at school, and came to IFA at the behest of a friend. With a truly masterful grasp of English they told me that tablets were the gadgets to catch their eye.

Cecillia came to the show, like Julian, via an events agency, and has been working at the DeLonghi stand, chatting to passing attendees about coffee makers and other gadgetry. 

"I really like it," she says. As well as working with nice people, Cecillia explains that there are perks to working in the same hall as the cooking tech. "We get all the food from the star cooks that's left over," she keenly informs me.

It's not all laughs and free food though. As well as having to memorise almost every aspect of DeLonghi's multitude of products, Cecillia notes, "Standing around for 10 hours at a time is really hard, especially in heels! And of course you have to smile all the time.

"Sometimes there are some people that are being unfriendly, I always have to be nice, that is sometimes a little strenuous," Cecillia muses. "But I really like the job."

Have you ever attended a tech trade show? Would you trawl through air-conditioned hangars to get your mitts on new tech? Or would you rather wait until it's in the shops? Enjoy the assortment of snaps above, and pop your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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Here's the entrance to the show. Imposing.
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Julian hails from Australia, and when not handing out flyers at IFA is studying London.
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This is what happens if you don't get all the plutonium out your jeans pockets before washing them.
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IFA is a family destination. The Henk family will be checking out Sony and Samsung's efforts.
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This tiny military recon robot is built by the company that makes Roomba, and costs about $30,000.
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In fact, it makes this jumbo vacuum look rather unimpressive. You might say it sucks, even. But let's not.
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This sewing machine produces pictures of dinosaurs.
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You probably didn't realise until now how un-patriotic your current oven really is.
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Company stands are marvels of engineering. This glowing, multi-level Huawei stand is a good example.
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These guys are school friends, visiting IFA at the request of a pal.
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Here's the map you use to navigate. As you can see, finding your way around is a breeze.
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When trawling for tech only one snack will do! Which is handy, because this is pretty much the only snack available. Eager visitors line up for hot dogs.
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At last, somewhere to wash your tricycle.
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T-Mobile's stand takes up an entire hall, and is a true assault on the senses.
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Here's a great bit of design -- the rings around this lamp move, with only the section between rings lighting up. Very smart.
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Many companies use shows like IFA as a chance to network with other businesses, or buyers.
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Miss IFA is the official show mascot, but is only rarely spied in person. We suspect there are in fact many Miss IFAs.
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More corporate attention-grabbing -- here acrobats spin around a giant simulated washing machine in honour of Miele's 'steamcare' tech.
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If that's not enough, how about this routine kicking off at the DeLonghi stand. Breakdancing and ironing, united at last.
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More dancers join for a spot of synchronised vacuuming.
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Also at the DeLonghi stand is Cecillia, who told us what it's like to work at IFA. Scroll down to read her thoughts.
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Finally, here's a view of the Reichstag in Berlin, snapped from Asus' off-site stand across town. Because why not?

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