A century after the refrigerator supplanted the icebox as the newfangled way to keep perishable foods cool and fresh, the fridge is getting a digital makeover and joining the ranks of “smart” products.
Leading the charge are two of the best-known names in consumer electronics, Samsung and LG. Expected to be out later this year, LG’s Smart InstaView and Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerators will allow owners to play music in their kitchen, leave digital notes for family members, check to see if they’re out of milk when they’re away from home and even order groceries with just a voice command.
“Smart refrigerators open a whole new world for getting content and services,” said Dinesh Kithany, senior principal analyst for home appliances with IHS Markit, a London-based technology market researcher.
Both Samsung’s and LG’s smart fridges will be tricked out with an array of high-tech features. Those will include touch-screen displays on the front of their doors, one or more cameras inside, and Wi-Fi radios to connect to the internet. Both companies’ fridges will also be able to run apps, and both will have artificial intelligence technology built in that will allow them to respond to voice commands and queries.
LG’s Smart InstaView will feature a jumbo-sized, 29-inch, touch-screen LCD display. If you knock twice on it, the display will become transparent, allowing you to see inside without opening the door.
The display also can show memos and to-do lists, and a digital menu lets you add virtual stickers and tags to indicate what’s stored inside and the expiration dates of those items. And the fridge will have Amazon’s Alexa voice-assistant technology built in, allowing you to play music, search for recipes, add items to a shopping list and order items available from Amazon’s Prime shopping service.
Samsung debuted its Family Hub line last year with four models that included large touch screens and the ability to run apps. Its Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators, which will come in 10 different sizes and styles when they hit stores later this year, will have some new and updated features, most notably a voice-assistant technology similar to the one in LG’s Smart InstaView. With that, you’ll be able to order groceries, check your calendar and get the time just by talking to your fridge.
Other apps will allow you to search for recipes or to send text messages to your fridge from a smartphone. You’ll also be able to listen to music or watch TV shows and videos on its screen.
Their price will likely turn off many consumers. Neither Samsung nor LG revealed the prices of their upcoming smart fridges. But Best Buy is selling last year’s Family Hub models with a starting price of $3,000, and those models originally cost more than $5,000 each.
By contrast, you can buy a top-brand refrigerator without all the smarts for less than $2,000.