A Washer That Connects to the Internet and Other Amazingly Dumb “Smart” Appliances

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Jan. 11 2013 5:20 PM

A Fridge With a Touch Screen! A Washer That Connects to the Internet!

Why are smart appliances so stupid?

Samsung smart fridge.
A Samsung smart fridge

Courtesy Samsung.

Smart appliances get no love. Every year at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s gadget makers unveil a slate of refrigerators, ovens, and washer-dryers that they insist have been infused with superior intelligence. And every year, everyone scoffs. That’s because smart appliances’ smarts are usually pretty stupid and never worth the price. This year Samsung showed off a $4,000 fridge called the T9000. It’s got an LCD touch screen and a wireless connection to the Internet. That’s the sine qua non of intelligence according to gadget makers—slap a touch screen and Wi-Fi on a fridge and voilà, you’ve got yourself an icebox with an IQ to rival Einstein’s!

Why do you need a touch screen and Wi-Fi on your fridge? Is it better for your cucumbers? That’s where the whole argument breaks down. The T9000 will show you a clock, news headlines, and let you use apps like Evernote right on the door. Apparently you can add an item to your grocery list by tapping it into the fridge then have it available to you on your phone later on. Why wouldn’t you just type it into your phone in the first place? Or on one of the four iPads you’ve likely got lying around, considering that you’re rich and dumb enough to drop $4,000 on a ridiculous fridge? I haven’t got a clue.

And neither do any of the companies pushing smart devices. What’s the point of an Internet-connected washer and dryer? To check the status of your laundry from anywhere in the world, obviously! You’ll never again find yourself panicked about your whites while you’re partying with your bros. You can also “start a load of laundry while driving home from work,” an executive from LG boasted in a press release. That sounds great until you remember that LG’s machine can’t load itself. To do your laundry on the go, you had to have filled it with dirty clothes and added soap, just like with any cheapo machine, and then brazenly left the house without starting the washer. Smart!

LG smart washer and dryer.
LG smart washer and dryer

Courtesy LG.

LG didn’t announce the price of its new washer-dryers, but its old smart washers and dryers were priced at $1,600 each. That’s about $1,000 more than you’d spend on a run-of-the-mill model. If starting your laundry from your car is that important to you, knock yourself out, but understand that you’re basically throwing your money away.

Advertisement

Some critics argue that the self-evident stupidity of these smart gadgets shows that the entire pursuit of intelligence in our appliances is misguided. “Maybe I'm just a snob who just wants a fridge that keeps food cooled and makes good ice,” says Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz.

But I don’t quite agree that we should keep our appliances dumb and simple. The real problem with smart devices isn’t that they’re trying to be smart but that they’re not nearly smart enough. I would love to have a refrigerator that was legitimately intelligent, not one that put on airs because it got gussied up with a touch screen.

What’s a legitimately smart fridge? Well, how about one that automatically keeps track of everything I put in it so that I can check to see if I’ve got any Dijon mustard left while I’m at the store? Or maybe it could figure out that my four carrots, three ribs of celery, and last night’s chicken leftovers will add up to a great stock—and then flash a recipe on its screen when I go get a Coke. Or take my stove: What if it could determine when the sauce that’s been reducing on the back burner has just reached the proper consistency—and then shut off the burner all by itself?

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.