Get ready for a smart fridge showdown at CES 2020, because Samsung and LG will both be unveiling fridges with added artificial intelligence capabilities this year. Samsung’s latest edition of its Family Hub refrigerator and LG’s second-generation InstaView ThinQ fridge both tout AI-equipped cameras that can identify food. The idea is that the cameras can scan what’s inside and let users know what items they’re short on, even making meal suggestions based on the ingredients they still have.
Samsung’s Family Hub smart fridge was first unveiled at CES 2016, and since then, the company has been rolling out updated iterations with Bixby support, SmartThings integration, and AKG speakers. The latest edition adds software upgrades to enable AI image recognition in its View Inside cameras.
Before, the cameras let users see what’s in their fridges from their smartphones, a useful feature if you happen to be out grocery shopping and can’t remember what you need to stock up on. With the AI-enabled updates, Family Hub will supposedly make these recommendations for you on its own, identifying which ingredients you’re low on. Though it’s to be determined how well the image recognition will work — for example, how will it deal with ingredients stored in tubs of Tupperware?
The software upgrades also include improved meal planning with the help of Whisk, a food tech startup Samsung acquired last year. Whisk lets users plan meals for up to a week and then creates smart shopping lists using ingredients that apply to multiple recipes.
Finally, the huge built-in touchscreen that can be used as a virtual bulletin board can now support video clips, as well as mirror content from Samsung TVs and phones. That means you can watch vertical videos like IGTV on your Samsung fridge, as God intended.
LG is showing off two models of its InstaView fridges, both of which feature a 22-inch display that can turn transparent to let users see what’s inside without opening the door and letting the cold air out. There’s the AI-equipped InstaView ThinQ and the InstaView with Craft Ice, which makes fancy, two-inch spherical ice balls. Those are supposed to melt slower than regular ice, if that’s a problem that you have. The InstaView with Craft Ice was released in the US last year, but will now be available in more markets.
There’s no pricing information yet, but based on the prices for LG and Samsung’s previous fridge models, customers can expect prices to range from $4,500 to $6,000. Samsung says its Family Hub updates will be available in the spring.
I’m not opposed to the idea of a huge Wi-Fi-connected touchscreen on a fridge — in fact, it seems like a genuinely useful way to look up recipes or display cute photos and videos. I’m skeptical how well the AI will identify different ingredients, and whether using a computer to see what items you’re low on is really better than just taking a look for yourself.