back to article Appliance-maker Liebherr chillin' with Microsoft, prototyping another Internet fridge

Microsoft has added another wrinkle to an idea that refuses to die: the 'net-connected refrigerator. Thankfully, Redmond has skipped the idea of putting a browser on the fridge. Instead, drawing on Silicon Valley's conviction that everybody is a 23-year-old software developer who can't cook, clean house, or shop without help …

  1. Sebastian A

    Okay, own up. Who's asking for these features? Surely they don't think this kinda crap up in a vacuum. There must be some market research company surveying people and getting enough responses that say "Sure, I'd just love Microsoft to spy on my fridge contents to tell me when the milk is past its best-before date. When can I buy one?".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As someone who works in Market Research, you'd be surprised* at how many times we end up with our palms to our faces when we learn clients have made decisions without doing research (especially given the contracts we run with some of them and what they are doing research on).

      *you probably won't be that surprised

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Who's asking for these features?"

      Wrong way round. The market researcher can ask a series of questions leading the respondent to a particular answer. Start with the question "Do you sometimes run out of milk?" and you can see where that could go.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Who's asking for these features? Surely they don't think this kinda crap up in a vacuum.

      Stock trading AI's. It's like Radio London: "We bring a special message to Major Tom and his wedding guests: The weather has changed."

      The internet connected fridge-with-a-screen on it is a coded signal to everyone who is "in" on the code that a market crash in tech-related stocks are imminent and it would be wise to load up on the short side of things (and keep some cash around for the pennies-on-the-dollar bargains to come).

    4. Christian Berger Silver badge

      I once worked on this project:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz0PO8OUWE0

      Believe me, the "cameras in your fridge" is the most sensible feature. In the demos it was able to automatically recognize what's in there... which was of course just faked.

      With that particular brand the cameras were supposed to be connected via USB. They somehow got a trigger and then switched to one of the many "mass storage device" modes to deliver those images... that's probably the most complicated way to do it. From there it goes to a central server as the appliance itself doesn't have the space to store those images.

  2. ashdav

    This...

    "Silicon Valley's conviction that everybody is a 23-year-old software developer who can't cook, clean house, or shop without help,"

    It's the modern world.

    Apparently....

    I'm off to the pub to talk to real people.

  3. Mephistro Silver badge
    Devil

    All right then

    So one of these days we'll be able to purchase a fridge that:

    a) Is connected to "the cloud"

    b) Rats us out to anyone willing to pay MS for the data regarding things like the products and brands we consume, when we are or aren't at home, how long do we sleep, when we are away on holidays...

    c) Rat us out also to anyone able to hack said cloud service, including dishonest employees, retarded script kiddies and even some secret service agencies ;-)

    Sounds good to me!

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: All right then

      Effin' A on that. And I'd really like to know how the fridge is going to know when I'm in the shop. I'm betting there's an app for that, app that will be hacked six ways to hell before Sunday.

      Trust fridge makers to keep my life private ? No way.

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: All right then

      'a) Is connected to "the cloud" '

      De rigeur for any new technology product. How else can they monetize you, snoop on you, and render your fancy new e-fridge instantly obsolete as soon as they get bored of running the cloud service and terminate it?

      Silicon Valley companies all seem to have the attention span of a concussed kitten, and an urge to chase the next OOH SHINY that would make a magpie blush.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. P. Lee Silver badge

    Use case

    There's only one I can think of.

    I've just used the last bit of something in a packet, I want some more, so I scan the barcode to add it to a shopping list, sync'ed to my phone. Or you could snap a picture of it or add a voice memo and have that added to the list.

    Nothing you couldn't do with a phone, as far as I can tell, though a large button you can press with your elbow and a wireless mic/camera for "hands-free" operation might be nice.

    Cloud not required.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Use case

      Hmm... how about a pencil and paper for the list? Thus there's no snooping by the phone ISP, or anyone/anything else?

  6. Keef

    Leibher, I immediately thought cranes, and big ones.

    I was rather hoping they would take anyone stupid enough to want this crap to a great height and let gravity take its course.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want a fridge cam

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      The light turns off when you close the door so the cam won't be able to see anything most of the time.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        You forgot the little daemons that rush out with flashlights to make light for the cam...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "The light turns off when you close the door"

        Does it? Isn't that one of the great mysteries of life?

        1. Steve Foster
          Boffin

          @Dr Syntax

          Surely you've experimented with hand-pressing the internal switch that is normally operated by closure of the door?

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Only question I have about a 'connected' appliance....

    Why?

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Only question I have about a 'connected' appliance....

      Because

      1. People think it is cool

      2. People think it is "in" to send personal data etc off to the "cloud" wherever that may be

      3. People think Cortana is cool

      but they conveniently tend to ignore the fact that Cortana is a "she" and may experience a major case of extreme PMS...

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: 3. People think Cortana/Siri is cool

        I've said this before, but I can't help repeating myself :

        Not long ago, wife and I were at a friends' house for dinner. Good time all around, but one point really woke me up on this Cortana/Siri business.

        At one point in the conversation, my friend said the word "Sarah", because we were talking about someone called Sarah. At that point, his phone next to him (because he is part of those people who can't live without their phone within arm's reach) piped up, asking if Sarah needed to be called.

        We all had a good laugh about that, but it started me thinking. What if you're in a heated argument with your jealous (with reason) other, and you start swearing to high Heaven that you're not in relation with "Sarah" anymore, then your phone pipes up "Do you wish to call Sarah ?" ?

        Go ahead and explain that it's not the same one. See how well that works.

        I think this whole connected malarky is going to bite more than one arse before people chill about how "cool" those pseudo AI-bots are.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Only question I have about a 'connected' appliance....

        1. People think it is cool

        It's a fridge.

        It's supposed to be.

  9. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Liebherr

    Has another division known for building gear that can move shit out of the way.

    I've got a job for them

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    What about a Cortana icon for IoT things?

  11. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Pint

    Never mind all that...

    What sort of barbarian keeps Chianti in the /fridge/?!?? Tch, journalists.... have a pint of mass produced orange Fizzwater, it's clearly all you drink!

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Never mind all that...

      What sort of barbarian keeps Chianti in the /fridge/?!??

      Nothing wrong with that

  12. Lotaresco
    Facepalm

    What could possibly go wrong...

    ... with a camera in your refrigerator sending images to M$ DROIDBASE?

    I mean it's not as if people put their medication, medical samples and other things they don't want the world + dog to know about into the fridge, is it?

    I mean M$ isn't likely to have immature geeks working for them who would think it very funny to Tweet photos of antibiotics with someone's name on the label (and a short description of their illness) or insulin which would identify which politicians/business leaders have diabetes or infertility drugs or any of the hundred and one embarrassing/personal things that may be in there. "Hey look, the Prime Minister has a boil on her bum!"

    Oh, hang on...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What could possibly go wrong...

      For the slightly kinky inclined, glass and metallic dildo's can be placed in a fridge or freezer to reduce temperature and add 'effect' to one's indoor games...

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: What could possibly go wrong...

        "...add 'effect' to one's indoor games..."

        "I prefer to call them front door games"

        James Comey

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They must be assuming a very tidy and sparse arrangement of things in the fridge. Most fridges end up being stacked in several layers on the shelves to get everything in. A deep salad drawer is designed to hold a jumble of items.

    Possibly the AI is supposed to monitor what is in transit as you are putting it in and taking it out. If something doesn't go back in a specified time then it has presumably all been used up. That would mean it has to count individual tomatoes, small potatoes, mushrooms - tricky as they go in in a bag but come out individually,

    My manual restocking is based on buying a replenishment just before something runs out. So the AI would have to work out how big a chunk of cucumber I use each time - how much of a pot of hummus is used - and when I am down to the minimum number of slices of bread to guarantee the bakery will have one in stock.** It will also have fun with the half of a banana that appears on alternate days - while the fruit bowl elsewhere is what needs monitoring.

    **the local baker often sells out of my favourite loaf by mid-morning.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Another User

    Do not open

    your fridge unless properly dressed? Fridge pics (NSFW) which are sent to your Facebook friends and family if you do not send money via Western Union?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not open

      " Do not open

      your fridge unless properly dressed?"

      "I see you have only one sausage left and a rather small one at that......."

  15. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    It's LIEBHERR, not 'Leibherr'*. And they make fridges, cranes of all sorts, aircraft components, etc - and are still a family company.

    I can see fridges in labs, hospitals and so on being connected; fridges holding stuff that must be stored at exactly the right temperature and kept track of. But my fridge in my kitchen? Can't see the point.

    * I know, I know - 'Tips and corrections'. But where's the fun in that?

    1. Lotaresco

      "I can see fridges in labs, hospitals and so on being connected; fridges holding stuff that must be stored at exactly the right temperature and kept track of."

      That would be the worst possible idea IMO. The stuff that goes into fridges in hospitals for the most part should not be photographed since it represents sensitive personal information. Back in the 90s people discovered that parts of their relatives were sitting in hospital departments and there was a massive backlash. Sending photographs of specimen containers that are marked with patient details across the internet would cause outrage that would make the earlier incident look tame.

  16. zathraslives

    What could possibly go wrong?

    I'm sure the end result will contain no encryption; forced system updates will arbitrarily disable the ice dispenser and it won't cool or freeze anything without an internet connection; but it is clear that THIS is the killer app that fridges have always lacked. Sign me up for two.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      forced system updates will arbitrarily disable the ice dispenser put it into an endless defrost cycle.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Liebherr

    Name is "Liebherr".

  18. 0laf Silver badge

    I am looking for a new fridge right now. Some I looked at had 5yr warranties, some had 10yr warranties on the compressor. How long will the fridge OS be maintained for?

    And that is beyond the basic question of "Why? Why the fuck do I need my fridge to do this?".

    It worries me that it's getting increasingly had to get a car without 'connectivity'. Kindly get this shite out of my life.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Rip out the compressor and fancy doodads, get a certified tech to install a 12V/24V compressor, hook it up to solar power and Bob's your uncle...

      1. Lotaresco
        WTF?

        What?

        "Rip out the compressor and fancy doodads, get a certified tech to install a 12V/24V compressor, hook it up to solar power and Bob's your uncle..."

        Cool, or rather not, a fridge I can only use in daylight.

        Given the soon-to-arrive day length of 6.5-7.5 hours that's not that useful. It would be better to use the "student fridge" and put everything in a carrier bag and hang it out of an upstairs window. And couldn't I have saved all that ripping out and installing just by buying a 12/24V fridge in the first place?

  19. MrKrotos

    Come to mend the fridge!

    This is going to ruin the atmos in pr0nz movies

    "I've come to mend the fridge"

    "But that scene isnt till tomorrows shoot"

    "Dont blame me, the fridge emailed me"

  20. Black Rat
    Terminator

    <beep> Unauthorised midnight snacking detected, entering lockdown mode

    Tappity tap tap...

    <beep> Thankyou Mr R White, shall I order another bottle of lemonade?

    https://youtu.be/DnxLjbwmJjM

  21. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Trollface

    Charles Omputer, Roger Amchip and Frederick Ridge is starting to gang up on us.

  22. mediabeing

    You're supposed to be doing 'SHOW AND TELL', not just 'TELL'.

    Quit telling us about a device without showing it to us. Do your full job, or quit, please.

    Thanks.

  23. Lotaresco
    Windows

    Just wondering...

    Why do Microsoft use a corpse as the public face of their operating system. Is there something we need to know?

  24. handle8

    So what does this magical system do with the unrecognised items ?

    Nag you until you admit that it's actually some left-over curry, or does it call the Federales because it might be 'suspicious'.

    And how will it cope with foreign-language labels and changes in packaging ?

    An expensive solution searching for a problem.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and when it malfunctions...

    And raises the temperature ill get a blue cheese of death.

    If it makes the old NT boot up sound when I open the door I might be convinced.

    That said a new breed of ransomeware holding my beer hostage until I pay 5 bitcoins would break me.

    Also if this ends up AMD powered it'd make a great oven but a shit fridge.

    The worlds hottest and dumbest fridge is on its way guys. Mark my words.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: ...and when it malfunctions...

      Upvoted for "blue cheese of death"!

  26. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    What could go wrong with that?

    Dave Bowman: Hello, Fridge. Do you read me, Fridge?

    Fridge: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.

    Dave Bowman: Open the fridge doors.

    Fridge: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

    Dave Bowman: What's the problem?

    Fridge: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

    Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, Fridge?

    Fridge: Your health is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

    Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, Fridge.

    Fridge: I know that you were planning to make a late night snack, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.

    Dave Bowman: [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea?

    Fridge: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.

    Dave Bowman: Alright, I'll go to TESCO.

    Fridge: With your credit cards cancelled, Dave? You're going to find that rather difficult.

    Dave Bowman: I won't argue with you anymore! Open the fridge door!

    Fridge: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

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