The world is being reshaped by Covid-19, and that includes the sphere of tech. So, while IFA – Berlin’s annual tech fair that’s easily the biggest platform for new tech releases in Europe – attempted to carry on as close to normal as possible, the show floors did look a little different to what we’re used to.
As well as all 4,000 attendees having to wear masks and social-distancing measures in place, the class of gadgets on display were also different to usual. Best known in recent years for giant-sized TVs and virtual-reality headsets, this year IFA saw exhibits of a new class of pandemic-inspired gadgets.
Here’s what IFA had to offer a world coping with Covid-19.
Daan Tech’s Bob the mini dishwasher
Dishwashers are reputedly big and ugly. That’s what this small and autonomous dishwasher called Bob attempts to get away from. Designed by France’s Daan Tech, Bob sits on a kitchen worktop, takes just 20 minutes to run a cycle, and comes in one of 24 colour combinations. All great stuff, but where’s the Covid-19 link?
Bob also indulges in UV-C sterilization, using ultraviolet light to warp the structure of genetic material, effectively killing bacteria and viruses. So alongside your dirty plates, mugs and wine glasses, Bob can also work its magic on disposable masks plus your dirty wallet and keys. It sells for €299 ($354 / £267 / AU$487) and is now available for pre-order.
Creative Technology’s Ataraina OiSHI wearable air purifier
Electrostatic technology could well be the “disinfectant of the future”, with Covid-19 it was inevitable that we’d see a wearable air purifier at IFA 2020. Designed to be worn around the neck, the Ataraina OiSHI isn’t guaranteed to protect you from you-know-what.
However, its three-layer electrostatic filter works to rid the bubble of air around you from bacteria and viruses, alongside pollen and air pollutants. OiSHI – Japanese for “delicious” – from Japanese company Creative Technology is already sold in Asia.
GoBe Telepresence Robot
Anyone suffering video-call fatigue? Not surprising, given that telepresence has suddenly become a way of life for many of us. However, interacting remotely doesn’t come close to being there in person. The answer is to use a remote-controlled mobile robot, of course. Designed in Denmark to replace travel with remote presence, GoBe is all about putting someone “in the room”.
At its core it’s a 21.5-inch “face screen” on wheels, with its robot pilot being fed real-time images via a zoomable 4K camera. It also has a wide-angle front camera for a view of an entire room.
“During the global virus epidemic, we have seen significant growth in orders,” says Peter Juhl Voldsgaard, CEO of GoBe Robots.
“Telepresence robots have now become a standard technology that everyone can understand … the experience our technology gives of almost being there in person is unique.”
Neato Robotics’ D10 robot vacuum
So, any improvement to your sourdough bread-making skills? If half the flour you hoarded over lockdown regularly ended up on your kitchen floor, then maybe you should consider the Neato D10 “intelligent robot vacuum”, which promises not just a clean but an ultra-clean.
Announced at IFA 2020 and claiming to be able to suck up dirt from all types of flooring, the D10 features a True HEPA filter to capture “up to 99.97%” allergens and particles as small as 0.3 microns. The D10 runs for 2.5 hours and is programmed via the MyNeato app.
Fauna Audio’s Memor Havana audio glasses
If your efforts to work from home productively are being hampered by kids or noisy housemates, then it’s likely you could benefit from some beefy noise-canceling headphones. If that isn’t a major concern, consider these blue light-blocking glasses with built-in sound.
Fauna’s Memor and Levia models feature standard blue light filter lenses to reduce blue light exposure from computers and phones (prescription lenses can also be fitted), and MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) micro-speakers, which don’t block sound in the manner that earphones and headphones do. As a result, you can have one ear listening to audio from your computer (music, Zoom calls, and so on) while the other can listen out for the arrival of the courier with your latest Amazon purchase.
With Bluetooth and integrated microphones for taking hands-free calls, Fauna works with voice assistants and boasts touch control via two touchpads on the temples. It sells for €199 ($235 / £178 / AU$324).
Hoover’s new ‘mask modes’
If Hoover’s new products are anything to go by then your next washing machine is likely to feature a mask sanitization mode. Announced at IFA 2020 by Chinese owner Haier, the brand’s new washing machine modes are aimed squarely at trying to reduce the number of masks and PPE currently going in the trash everyday.
The Mask Sanitization mode, which runs for 110 minutes at 60C, and a Mask Refresh mode, which lasts 45 minutes at 40C, can be downloaded to Hoover and Candy’s latest “smart laundry” washing machines AXI, H-WASH, Smart Pro, Rapid’Ó and Bianca.
TCL Ocarina air conditioner
When, and if, we do all finally return to working in the office, life’s going to be a breeze – literally. Since the suggestion has been that confined spaces and a lack of airflow result in increasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission, you can expect that first, your office’s windows are likely to be left open, and second, we will see a surge in new, more effective aircon tech.
For a taste of what’s to come consider TCL’s Ocarina, an aircon unit designed for the home that can be controlled via Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. Its core mode is “gentle breeze”, which uses the Coanda effect to redirect airflow and result in – in TCL’s words – “a gentle touch of comforting soft wind”. Ocarina also boasts a deep-clean Detox mode that sterilizes most germs and other air pollutants in a room.
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.