BERLIN — Just when I thought I’d seen everything at a technology trade show, LG served me a glass of Tuscan bubbly perfectly chilled from a WiFi-connected, voice-activated wine cellar.
Yes, it’s over-the-top. Will anyone buy it? I have no idea. But I love it.
At first glance, the wine cellar looks like a stainless steel refrigerator, complete with glass door and two refrigerated compartments below. But then I rapped my knuckles twice on the door and the interior lit up, showing rows of wine bottles. The knocking feature, which is already in some of LG’s refrigerators, lets you to see through the darkened glass without opening the door and allowing cool air to escape.
You can also talk to the cellar, though there are only a few statements it recognizes. “Hi, LG” will turn on the interior light. You can also say, “Nice to meet you,” and “What’s your name?”
Such a limited voice assistant isn’t all that useful, so hopefully this feature becomes more robust when the wine cellar arrives in the U.S. early next year. Imagine being able to ask your appliance for pairing recommendations with specific foods, for instance. Now that’s luxury.
The cellar has two bottom compartments that can be used as refrigerators or freezers with temperature controls. The bottom drawer is motion-activated — when it senses your food close to it, the drawer opens. The top drawer slides out and lifts up with the press of a button, literally bringing the selection of snacks for your cheese plate directly to you.
Now for the real question: Who needs to store their wine collection in what is essentially a separate refrigerator? Why not just stick your bottles of rose on the door like I do? I asked wine critic James Suckling, who selected the wines for LG’s tasting. For serious collectors who also like to entertain, a temperature-controlled wine cellar is a perfect solution. (Apparently, I’ve been doing it wrong.)
“It’s normally too cold,” Suckling said. “Temperature is really important for wine-serving because if it’s too cold you can’t smell the wine.”
The wine cellar is part of LG’s high-end Signature line, which is designed for the more affluent buyer. (Translation: Most of us will not be buying this appliance.) LG hasn’t announced cost or availability, but other appliances in the Signature line run thousands of dollars, so you can expect the wine cellar to be comparably priced.
The cellar isn’t branded ThinQ (yet), though an LG rep tells me that it will be connected to the ThinQ app at launch. Suckling hopes the app will be able to tell you your inventory.
But LG’s artificial intelligence brand, ThinQ, was the thrust of the company’s messaging and products at IFA. LG sees AI as a way to build value into its products, reducing both the learning curve and the need to pore over instruction manuals.
“Our devices will learn about you, not the other way around,” said LG chief technology officer I.P. Park during an IFA-opening keynote outlining LG’s vision for AI.
And that’s a crucial element to successful AI, which Park says should get better the more people use a product, providing more data on their usage patterns and needs. That means AI-equipped devices pick up value over time, instead of depreciating.
“The more you use our products, the better they will be, by learning more about you,” Park said.
On second thought, maybe I don’t want a smart wine cellar. It might learn too much about me.
Additional reporting from Philip Michaels.
Photos: Tom's Guide