Special Edition or not, the hugely shrunk-down IFA 2020 exhibition in Berlin as a result of Covid-19 may appear to remote onlookers to be mainly about the virtual IFA Global Press Conference. However, while the likes of LG, Huawei and Honor made their announcements in the main hall, there was a totally different kind of IFA going on in the CityCube outside. Welcome to IFA NEXT, where startups, tech entrepreneurs and inventors presented their latest innovations.
From a sea air simulator and an exercise wheel for cats to “smart meat”, “smart sex” and, err, a smart cushion, IFA 2020 once again showed that you can always count on someone, somewhere, to dream-up something … unexpected. Here are our favourites from Berlin this year.
Beurer’s maremed sea air simulator
What you need after a pandemic is a bit of sea air. That’s according to Beurer, which used the IFA Global Press Conference to launch maremed, a device that simulates the smell of sea air.
While not specifically in response to Covid-19, with the focus more about providing relief from increasing air pollution, maremed – which resembles a bread-maker and is about the same size – claims to clean, mineralise, sterilise, ionise and humidify air. Inside are natural sea salts to “simulate the biodynamics of the seaside”.
As is becoming increasingly common in all kinds of gadgets, maremed also has a UVC lamp, which uses ultraviolet light to kill 99% of bacteria and viruses in the air it treats.
The Little Cat’s B612 Cat Planet Cat Exercise Wheel
Not only did us humans put on weight through lockdown, we literally now have “fat cats”. But help is at hand. Presented by a South Korean company called The Little Cat (oh the irony), this cat exercise wheel was being trailed as an ‘Internet of Things Cat Wheel for Obese Cat.’
Rather delightfully, the wheel isn’t inspired by hamsters, but by our feline friends’ continued fascination with laser pinpoint light. It goes something like this: put cat on wheel, move laser light using smartphone apps, cat chases after light, wheel spins, cat gets exercise.
Naturally, you get insights from this LED-based exercise tracking treadmill anywhere and at any time. Apps for iOS and Android record and track your cat’s exercise data – distance run, body mass and calories consumed – then analyse this data to produce insights … whether your cat is still obese, being the main one.
Heatle’s smart liquid heater
Looking for a kettle that also charges your phone? That’s exactly what you get from Heatle, a Berlin-based startup that has developed this miniature induction-based device for efficiently heating liquid faster than a kettle.
Whether heating water, soup or milk, Heatle comprises a 25cm-long metal rod and a base station containing an induction coil. It uses magnets to generate 2,000W in the rod to boil a cup-full of liquid – or exactly how much you need – in under a minute. That base station doubles as a Qi wireless charging pad. Still in development, it’s slated for release in six months.
Deep One’s Wearable Body Subwoofer
We’re going to stick our neck out and say that everyone wants more bass. However, if you’re achieving this via a big pair of noise-cancelling headphones wrapped around your head, then you’re going about it all wrong. What you need is a “wearable subwoofer”. Designed to be worn around the neck, Deep One is a U-shaped device that brings deep, rumbling bass to you – but without disturbing anyone else.
Connecting to your phone via Bluetooth, it sends low-frequency sounds into the wearer’s shoulders and upper chest, with impressive results. “It’s all about feeling the sound of movies, music and games – and after you’ve tried it you cannot go back,” says Frederik Podzuweit, Founder and CEO of Deep One. “It’s so realistic that hard of hearing people can feel the music.”
BerlinGreen’s GreenBox smart indoor garden
Remember growing cress back in your school days? Well, you can now do that on your bedside table via your smartphone. Or, you can just use this “smart garden” as a great-looking light. The brainchild of local startup BerlinGreen, GreenBox is made of wood – albeit using lasers to get the curves and logo indentations – and is designed to grow herbs and salad.
Connected by Bluetooth via an app that provides exhaustive data on the growing progress and plenty of planning advice, it’s essentially a daylight simulator, so it can be used simply as a light in winter, and even as an alarm clock. The app delivers information on humidity, temperature and growth cycles.
Bleu Jour’s Move Ultimate gaming mini-PC
A high-performance gaming PC you can physically carry around? The brainchild of Toulouse-based Bleu Jour, the Move Ultimate ($1,726 / £1,290 / AU$2,352; on sale during September) is the latest in the company’s lineup of unique-looking computers, which also includes the 12cm cube called Kubb and its new-for-IFA 2020 Move2 workstation. An ultraportable workstation, the Move Ultimate is built around the modular and scalable Intel NUC Elements Extreme platform, so it’s easy to upgrade.
Inside sits a 9th Generation Intel Core processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX or AMD Radeon RX graphics card, M.2 NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6, dual LAN and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. However, it’s that built-in handle that we can’t get over.
Satisfyer Connect sex toy app
There’s haptic touch for immersive home entertainment and then there’s – well – haptic touch. If lockdowns return then expect “smart sex” tech to grow – and at IFA 2020, Berlin-based “sexual wellness” brand, Satisfyer, launched a new app for remotely operating paired products. You get the idea – you operate a partner’s sex toy from “anywhere around the globe” (could be across the street … or just downstairs).
You can indulge in live control using your own intensity and rhythms by “stroking” a finger over the screen, or you can be lazy and put it on auto. Reassuringly, a secure connection between two accounts can only be established if both sides explicitly agree each time. Plus, you can very easily end your haptic relationship and delete all past messages.
It links to Spotify, but music or spoken words are transmitted through vibrations, which Satisfyer suggests might be good for your next concert visit. If you think that’s weird, Satisfyer Connect works with 12 separate devices, but only four at a time. You do the maths.
Prestigio Click&Touch keyboard
Do you like using a mouse with your desktop computer? Of course not. How about that clicker pad on your laptop? Nope. Cue the Prestigio, the world’s first touchpad keyboard, which could change what every laptop looks like. “We are taking a traditional keyboard and adding a touch layer behind it, so the keyboard becomes a touchpad,” says Markus Nau, Business Development Manager at Belarus-based Clevetura, which makes the technology.
A regular multi-touch panel with gesture support, just as you’d find on any phone or tablet, Prestigio is a standalone product. However, the long-term goal is to get it built into laptops and folio covers for iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs. “Used on a laptop it could mean you can add a bigger battery, better cooling, higher-performing CPUs or an additional display by moving the keyboard to the bottom – maybe even a pen display for adding hand-written notes,” says Nau, who think next year’s dual-screen laptops need this tech.
Apption Labs’ Meater smart meat thermometer
To perfectly cook meat, you need to focus on its temperature, rather than the time for which you cook it. Apption Labs makes three versions of its smart meat thermometer: Meater (£79) for indoor ovens; Meater+ (£99) for outdoor BBQs (the difference being Bluetooth range); and a Wi-Fi version called Meater Block with four temperature probes, unlimited range and an integrated OLED display.
In each Meater there are two sensors: one that is inserted into the meat and one that measures your oven/BBQ’s temperature; the device will notify you of the exact point at which you need to remove the meat from the heat (since it carries on cooking even after you do). “With the Meater Block you can do long cooks on a BBQ or a roast in the oven,” says Matt Blyden, Marketing Manager at Apption Labs. “So, you can sit in the pub or go shopping and carry on watching your meat cook … you know when your Sunday dinner is cooked.” Rather cutely, Meater sits in a bamboo block that attaches magnetically to a fridge, where it remains charged thanks to an AA battery inside.
Visseiro’s smart cushion
Elderly people and fiddly new technology do not make for a harmonious mix. Cue Visseiro, a “smart cushion” that can take all kinds of body metrics subtly and without intruding. It’s just a cushion; however, while it looks perfectly innocent, Visseiro actually takes vital sign readings on heart rate, respiration, temperature, time sitting down and even the sensitive (and time-sensitive) matter of “moisture status”. It also calculates stress level and calculates a “wellbeing score” if it’s used for a long period. That’s a goldmine of data for healthcare workers, as well as carers and/or relatives.
IFA 2020 is Europe's biggest tech show (although much smaller this year due to global restrictions), and TechRadar will bring you all the breaking news and first impressions of new TVs, wearables and other devices as they're announced.