Electronics giant LG has announced that its line of “HomeChat”-enabled appliances — a refrigerator, washing machine, and Lightwave oven that can be communicated with and operated via messaging service Line — is now available to buy in its native South Korea.
By using the popular smartphone app, users can chat with their various gizmos as if they were ordinary human contacts, asking them questions as well as providing additional information to alter their functions. Thanks to the technology built into the appliances with which the app communicates, it’s possible not just to remotely check the temperature inside the fridge or put on a load of laundry, but to find out how many beers you have or delay your usual wash cycle by 30 minutes simply by telling the machine you’ll be home late.
It sounds like a scene from a sci-fi movie, but we now have the technology to tell the vacuum cleaner to run about the house looking for dust, turn the central heating down a few degrees, or even check the contents of your fridge from the other side of the planet. And now, LG is adding the human element.
Partnering with Line, the free messaging service that continues to take both Japan and South Korea by storm, the electronics company is allowing owners of their new home appliances to chat with them like they’re just another contact in their phonebook.
Coming home later than usual and need to delay the time the washer kicks on? Rather than firing up a some unwieldy “LG” smartphone app, it’s simply a case of sending “I’ll be home 30 minutes late” to your washer via Line, and HomeChat will know to wait a little longer than normal. Want to keep an eye on the contents of the fridge while your greedy-guts brother’s around? Using its built-in camera, the fridge can scan its own contents and send you a damage report on request.
Essentially a text-based version of virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Google Voice Search, HomeChat allows users to communicate with their appliances from anywhere in the world using everyday language. HomeChat will reply to your request or update in the same way that a friend might text back (albeit with the word “Washer” or “Refrigerator” to indicate which home appliances is doing the talking) thus allowing the user to confirm or deny the action as easily as they might a time to meet up for drinks.
Shortcuts are available for those who lack even the few seconds it takes to say “please”, but LG is hoping that users will fire up Line like they would when talking to friends and family and either ask their gizmos a question or give them info they need to make life easier for their master.
Here’s LG’s promo video introducing the service.
Skeptics may wonder how holding conversations with one’s appliances could be preferable to simply pushing a couple of virtual buttons or setting a timer, but few could deny that the human element is appealing. While Siri et al may still be somewhat hit-and-miss, natural discourse is something that we as humans find comforting, and LG’s decision to tap into Line, an application that millions already use and are completely familiar with, as a means of operating their numerous devices is inspired. After all, why retrain consumers when products can work with those we already use?
LG is reportedly considering bringing HomeChat-enabled appliances to other regions, but for now it’s only consumers in its native South Korea who get to pretend their ovens have souls. Whether they’ll take to messaging their appliances or blowing off dates in order to go home and tinker with technology like the guy in their promotional video remains to be seen, but we have to admit we’re intrigued to find out whether LG’s on to something here.