Berlin’s massive tech exhibition IFA was dominated by the big brands’ unveiling of phones and giant TVs, but beyond the headlines are hundreds of eye-catching new ideas. Is a digital teasmade insane? Possibly. How about a wearable air purifier, a ‘digestive tracker’ and a Wi-Fi hotspot with a camera? Or maybe you would like your next child to be pointing a camera at you from its crib?
What seems odd today is next week’s normal, and many of the ideas that first get floated at IFA can go on to become, or to inspire, the next generation of must-have gear and gadgets. Here’s our pick of this year’s most intriguingly odd new tech on show at IFA 2019.
1. FoodMarble AIRE Personal Digestive Tracker
Take a deep breath. Now exhale. Yeah, you shouldn’t have eaten that. A pocket-sized breath-tester, FoodMarble’s AIRE figures out what foods you are unable to digest. The first-ever ‘personal digestive tracker’, AIRE caters for the one-in-eight people that eat food not compatible with their digestive system, something that can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
“Users log food, sleep, stress, sleep and symptoms in the app and take regular breath tests throughout the day,” says Aonghus Shortt, CEO of FoodMarble. “Each breath test measures the level of fermentation in your gut, which indicates how well a certain food is being digested. Our users come to us because they are tired of guessing what foods are triggering digestive problems for them.” Yuck.
FoodMarble AIRE is on sale now for £149 (about $180 / AU$270).
2. Samsung AirDresser
Samsung has gone a bit mad. Its tortuously long press conference saw the unveiling of the AirDresser, a ‘personal garment solution’ that, er, releases powerful jets of air to de-dust and sanitize clothes. Now that’s solving a problem that no-one thought they had.
For those who need to ‘refresh and revitalise’ their clothes or are sick of spending so much time at the dry cleaners, the wardrobe-shaped AirDresser emits ‘jet steam’ from a vent on the floor to remove bacteria (?) and a heat pump to dry them out and remove smells. Yup. It comes in the ‘Crystal Mirror’ color, which makes it look a bit like a fridge. It’s presumably designed for smoggy cities in Asia because Samsung also talked-up a ‘wind-free’ air purifier. Samsung solving the big problems?
3. Aalto Explorer FIND-X 3 Underwater Drone
The ocean covers nearly 70% of the Earth, yet 95% of it remains a mystery. So why don’t we discover it… together? Finland-based Aalto has developed the world’s first underwater expedition platform where anyone can sign-up and enjoy – via a virtual reality headset – live streaming video in real-time from the bottom of the world’s oceans.
The vehicle plumbing the depths on various expeditions will be the new Aalto Explorer FIND-X 3, a remote operated vehicle – yup, a drone – fitted with a 360° camera, with a 4G (and, soon, 5G) equipped floating mobile above, tethered via an umbilical cord. The ‘passenger’ sees what FIND-X 3 sees via a web browser or phone. It’s all currently at the prototype stage.
4. Barisieur Tea and Coffee Brewing Alarm Clock
Are you old enough to remember the teasmade? The automatic tea-maker-meets-alarm clock, popular in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s, hasn’t been seen for decades, and yet its stylish return at IFA 2019 instantly seems inevitable.
Mind you, the Barisieur is a far higher grade beast than the analog brewers of yesteryear. It makes both coffee and loose leaf tea using a stainless steel reusable filter, with water brewing in 3.5 minutes using induction tech, to reach 94°C. It uses infrared to detect if milk is present, and if it is, it cools it to 3-8°C. The Barisieur also includes drawers for coffee, tea, sugar and spoons.
And if anyone was under the illusion that this is a new kind of teasmade, it’s really only a digital makeover; the Barisieur gives the caffeine addict options to wakeup with a cuppa ready to drink, or it can be delayed by five, 10 or 15 minutes after the alarm. Available in black or white, Barisieur costs £345 (about $420 / AU$620) and is on sale now.
5. Véritable Connect Smart Garden
In the UK and worried about Brexit's impact on fresh food? Probably not, but why risk it when this (ironically) French-made ‘smart garden’ from Véritable can help you grown your own aromatic herbs, edible flowers and baby vegetables all year round?
Promising to create the perfect growing conditions for the organic seeds of sweet basil, curly parsley, chives and cherry tomatoes, it includes in the box (as well as organic soil), Véritable Connect is completely autonomous.
The unit provides plants with automated light, irrigation and nutrients, and an app lets you know when the water tank is empty (that happens every three weeks). All you’ve got to do is harvest and gobble it all up. Véritable Connect costs £245 (about $300 / AU$440).
6. Babeyes Baby’s POV Camera
What does the world – and what do we – look like from a baby’s point of view? It’s something that most of us have never thought of. Or, at least, we’ve never thought we needed to record for posterity. That was until Babeyes came along with the tagline ‘babies' first memories forever’.
Essentially a first-person camera for babies, a small camera is hidden in a teddy bear-shaped badge that pins to a baby grow. It then records any motion it detects in full HD 1080p quality and once its contents have been transferred to a computer, software looks for faces and shows only those clips. So although it sounds like it’s about the baby, it’s actually about showing the parents footage of themselves. Scary stuff. It costs $139 (about £110 / AU$200).
7. Airvida C1 Wearable Air Purifier
If Babeyes is essentially a gadget for parents rather than children, here’s one that’s all about the kids. The world’s only (obviously) wearable air purifier designed specifically for children aged three to 10 years old, Airvida’s C1 generates 2,000,000 negative ions per cubic centimeter every 0.6 seconds around a baby’s face. That’s 100 times more than 'natural forest ion concentration' according to the makers, which of course makes perfect sense.
It’s supposed to reduce the pollen, airborne allergies and allergens that a baby may breathe in, though isn’t that just going to make for a sickly child? It might seem intrusive, but it only weighs 22g.
8. bONE Tech IceBRKR Ski Goggles
It’s another wacky proposition. Here are some ski goggles that let you listen to music, and even chat with your mates anywhere on the slopes up to a mile away without having anything in your ears.
There are two slabs of tech behind bONE Tech’s IceBrkr ski googles. The first is bone conduction, which does away with the need for in-earphones. Instead, vibrations in your ski helmet send low-frequency sounds into the inner ear directly through jawbones. That’s something AfterShokz has been doing for a few years. The technique’s advantage is that you can also hear what’s going on around you, which is crucial when you’re on the slopes.
The second secret is Bluetooth 5.0 MESH, which lets you create an intercom with up to 17 other people within a mile that also have devices using the same tech. That sounds great for staying in touch, something that’s very tricky in large ski resorts. It’s on Kickstarter now for around $100 / £80 / AU$140.
9. Capsulier REVO Coffee Packaging Machine
Love good coffee, but hate evil coffee capsules? Hugely convenient and massively wasteful, coffee capsules that go into espresso machines go into landfill. You’re also tied to buying one brand of capsules, often at great expense. So why not just make your own?
This capsule packaging gadget makes custom-blend coffee capsules in minutes, pops easily into espresso machines, and creates any kind of blend a coffee-lover can dream of. Capsulier uses stainless steel capsules that can be used ad infinitum. Expect to see a finished version of the REVO in mid-2020.
10. Welt Smart Belt
As tech zones go, wrists are so passé. Sure, we all tried and loved (and then quickly got bored of) a Fitbit around our wrists, but then retreated to using fitness apps on smartphones that just can’t be reliable. So what about this for a convenient half-way house? Made in South Korea, the micro USB-charged Welt is a belt that tracks the size of your waist as it expands and contracts, uses a pedometer to track your activity – just like a Fitbit – and also takes account of how much you’re eating. It then tells you want/what not to do via a phone app.
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Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),