The visionary and the strange
HANOVER, Germany, (AFP) - Traditional German lederhosen with a built-in cellular phone, a bathroom mirror that can give current stock quotes and a BMW sports car that can talk and listen drew the crowds Thursday as the world's top high-tech fair opened.
The CeBIT telecoms, computers and electronics trade fair in the northern German city of Hanover is a showcase of the visionary and the strange each March and this year is no exception.
Leading the parade of gadgets are the leather trousers preferred by thigh-slapping Bavarian dancers but this time they have a modern twist: a sewn-in mobile phone.
|A woman puts on her mascara using a cell phone from LG called “Shine” as a mirror at the CeBIT computer, digital IT and telecommunications fair.
The lederhosen from century-old German all-weather clothier Lodenfrey feature a mouthpiece embedded in the suspender straps and a row of unobtrusive olive green buttons down the side of the leg.
Also at the fair's "smart textiles" exhibition is a pair of ski gloves from O'Neill that lets users operate their MP3 player in their jacket pocket as they schuss down the slopes.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the richest of them all?"
'Bathroom TV" by German firm ad notam allows you to monitor your stock portfolio with a wireless beamer projected on to the mirror. And a waterproof remote control can join you in the bathtub.
Meanwhile a new digital restaurant menu may make sluggish service a thing of the past.
"Papeo," short for Portable Assistant for Personal Electronic Ordering, means that guests no longer have to wait for the waiter to place an order but can use a touchscreen to communicate directly with the kitchen or the bartender.
"Papeo not only takes and forwards orders and writes up the bill, it can also entertain customers at their tables or flash advertising," said Ludwig Hitzenberg of the University of Regensburg in southern Germany which developed the technology.
Austria's Urban Tool has developed the answer with the perCushion, a pillow with an integrated telephone and a built-in, long-lasting battery.
The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence has dreamed up a BMW sports car that can communicate with the driver.
While some may get flustered with all the standard functions of a modern automobile – GPS navigation, onboard computers, climate control units, electronic entertainment -- they can now simply hold a conversation.
The SAMMIE dialogue system is fluent in English and German.
"It's too hot," "play the Arctic Monkeys CD," and "show me the directions to the next petrol station" meet with a spoken response by the car before it carries out the request or asks for clarification.
Tech-savvy grannies who want to stay in their own homes as long as possible may one day be able to turn their own four walls into an ultra-modern assisted living facility.
Germany's Fraunhofer Institute has built a small-scale prototype of an "intelligent apartment". If a walking stick falls, a chip inside triggers a loud speaker to ask if granny is alright. If there is no answer, an ambulance is called.
A "thinking" drinking cup monitors the intake of fluids in the course of a day and reminds the patient if she falls short. A refrigerator can keep track of smart radio tags on food packaging and sound the alarm if the expiration date as passed.
Fraunhofer has also developed a virtual mirror that allows you to design your own shoes, selecting the colours, soles and styles from dozens of options.
The mirror then shows the customer a vision of himself wearing the shoes before he even tries them on."Thanks to the 3-D image manipulation technique developed at Fraunhofer, the software is so fast that it can follow the customer's movements in real time," said product developer Juergen Rurainsky.
A prototype of the mirror can already be seen in an Adidas store on Paris's Champs-Elysees. The CeBIT runs through March 21.