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Culture

Washing without Water

At the Home Tech fair in Berlin, numerous household appliances are on show - from a clever wine cabinet to a weatherwise toaster.

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The washing machine of the future has more to offer than effective cleaning

Today’s toasters are not just good at making warm, crisp toast. They can tell sleepy breakfasters what kind of weather awaits them outside, too. With the help of an internet connection to a world weather website, the toaster registers storms, wind and clouds, and makes the appropiate imprint on the piece of cooking toast.

The weatherwise toaster is just one of numerous nifty electronic gadgets designed to make household life more comfortable, on show at the Home Tech fair in Berlin.

At the fair, Berlin’s first Home Tech international trade show for electrical appliances, hundreds of household appliances from freezers to water-heaters, tiny fittings and small parts to house automation and building systems technology are on display in an extensive exhibition which lasts through Sunday.

Emotional appliances

But there is more to the show than just row upon row of technically complex appliances. Today’s range of household gadgets entail more than just effective washing-machines, ovens or hair-dryers. According to fair organisers Messe Berlin, "the industry has set the remarkable goal of emotionalizing their products" - emotions evoked by household happenings, such as "Pasta Action Cooking", "Bodypainting", "Freestyle Cooking" and "Cocktail Mixing with DJ".

The fair, targeted at 18 million users of household gadgets in Berlin and eastern Germany, is a summary of the " industry's distinctive features, level of performance, and keen innovative spirit".

An innovative spirit which has led to technical wonders such as the "dry" washing machine – a washing machine which works without water.

Washing without water

If you believe today’s microelectronic experts, everyday clothes in the near future will increasingly be fitted with all kinds of intelligent electronic gadgets, whether mobile phones, built-in computers or air humidity sensors.

These kind of clothes can not simply be washed with water. Hence, household owners of the future will need new washing machines.

Whirlpool’s washing machine of the future, on show at the fair, looks more like an over-dimensional CD-player, a huge round, flat object which hangs on a wall. The machine, designed and developed by Whirlpool, washes clothes with the help of microscopic devices which are programmed to imitate enzymes. These enzymes are incorporated in a gel, which is added to the washing.

The Whirlpool washing machine can sort out those garments already cleaned, which are then directed into one of the segments of the large circular shaped machine. This way, ready-to wear-clothes can be extracted for use, while the rest of the still dirty washing undergoes a further cleaning process.

A cleaning process which, according to Whirlpool, one of the world's leading manufacturers of home appliances, may take at least a decade before it is ready for the general public.

Looking to the future

The company’s innovation may take time to become an everyday household object – but serves as yet another example of the path household gadgets are taking.

Today, washing machines like Siemen’s "IQ" range, are fitted with an intelligent "mind", the ability to detect just how much lipstick is on a dirty shirt collar, and therefore how much washing powder, and water, is needed to get rid of nasty red smudges.

However, today’s appliance inventors need to consider just how "intelligent" machines can be. Gadgets must be useable and not too daunting and therefore more time-consuming for the everyday user.

Household appliances must recognise people’s weaknesses too, such as Hoover’s Vision, a hoover with a dust holder which is tipped backwards by 15 degrees. This way, if a sock gets stuck in the funnel, the hoover can be opened during cleaning, avoiding an outpouring of collected dust.

Making life easier

The fair offers numerous appliances with one aim – to make life easier. Eurocave’s temperature-controlled wine cabinet, for example, is ideal for storing different wines in one cabinet, enabling red, rosé, white and sparkling wines as well as champagne to be kept at the correct temperatures ready for evening dinner parties.

Aero Product’s inflatable bed with built-in-pump and crack-resistent PVC enables spontaneous guests comfortable bedding within a matter of seconds.

And travellers, driving through the wind and rain, can run a hot bath prior to arriving home, simply by pressing a combination of buttons on a mobile phone on the trip’s last leg.

A major change

In the past decade, kitchens, bathrooms and households have seen major changes.

Once, a purely utilitarian space, the kitchen has become a focal point of home life for families all over the world. Today's kitchens reflect aspects of individuality, professionalism and lifestyles, aspects not only expressed in design, but also in appliance technology.

High-tech, intelligent houses are no longer a dream of the future. With their "inHaus" in Duisburg, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and 18 companies from Germany and abroad, including Viessmann, VW and Miele, are taking a closer look at networked home systems. These include a home laboratory, home office, multimedia car and smart garden.

Since the start of the project, in April 2001, the house and its high-tech gadget were very much the focus of a technical project. In November, the first residents will be moving in to test the facilities for a period of three months – in what may be the home of the future.

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