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Interview: Samsung’s new fridge is a smart home hub waiting to happen

by Jacob Kleinman | May 7, 2016May 7, 2016 1:00 pm PST

Samsung’s Family Hub is a sight to behold. The massive $5,800 connected fridge sports an equally impressive touchscreen display, making it possible to leave digital sticky note messages, order groceries online and watch TV. It even has internal cameras so you can check if you’re out of milk from the grocery store’s dairy aisle. The one thing it can’t do is respond to voice commands… at least not for now.

“It has two built-in microphones but we have not activated them yet,” Dean Brindle, Samsung’s vice president of marketing for kitchen appliances, told TechnoBuffalo. “It’s a future integration we’re planning.”

Samsung clearly sees voice controls as a key feature for the Family Hub somewhere down the line. The built-in display even includes a capacitive microphone button alongside a few standard navigation icons for Home, Menu and Back. But when I asked if the fridge might eventually serve as a smart home hub (like a giant Amazon Echo) Brindle was hesitant to respond.

“I think voice recognition is going to be critical to the consumer,” he said. “We’re not fully integrated with any sort of smart functionality, but it is something we’re developing for future integration. We could download it directly as a future update. Consumers are going to get updates regardless, whether that’s focused on food, entertainment or family.”

For now, the Family Hub is designed to serve as, well, a hub for your family. It’s a place to leave messages for the kids where you know they’ll see an important reminder. And that big beautiful display may convince everyone to spend more time gathered in the kitchen.

Brindle doesn’t have one installed at home yet, but he said his entire family can’t wait for the new fridge to show up. “I think my 14-year old is probably as excited as my wife. He thinks it’s cool having a screen in the kitchen.”

Whether Samsung can also turn its fridge into a hub for all your gadgets (or whether it even wants to) remains to be seen. Regardless, the company sees connectivity as a key feature for pretty much everything moving forward.

“Wi-Fi will be in almost every product category in 2017,” Brindle said. Next up? The dishwasher.

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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...

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