Imagine a smart home where the curtains are automatically drawn every morning as you wake up, and the lights immediately turned on when you arrive at home in the evening. However, smart home appliances in the real world now sometimes cause more complications than when you are without them. AllChinaTech picked five smart home appliances in China that can make your life more complicated, giving a glimpse of an industry still in the early stages of growth and requiring more improvement.

Midea smart air conditioner

Photo from Baidu Images
Photo from Baidu Images

China’s leading home appliance manufacturer Midea launched a smart air conditioner in August 2016, together with its Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup partners which include Horizon Robotics.

Unlike most home air conditioners that are square-shaped, Midea’s smart air conditioner looks like a ball with a metallic glow. It allows a user to give it orders within a five-meter distance. The problem is that if you want to adjust the temperature or wind speed of an air conditioner, it is better to use hand gestures than giving it verbal orders as voice is less natural than other physical gestures.

Tencent smart refrigerator

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.20.53 PM
Photo from Midea.com

China’s tech giant Tencent released a refrigerator in January with its home appliance partner Midea. Targeting China’s young generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, the penguin-themed refrigerator is adorned with decorations of adorable penguins – the mascot of Tencent’s super messaging app QQ.

The smart machine enables users to remotely control their refrigerator via the app QQ. On top of that, this refrigerator provides a string of entertainment functions including videos, music and radio which leave us wondering why people would need these on a refrigerator. The most absurd function? Using the video chat function on the refrigerator to speak to family and friends. Talking to your mother via a refrigerator screen looks really strange.

Fenshenyu home robot

The Fenshenyu robot. Photo from Baidu
The Fenshenyu robot. Photo from Baidu

China’s search engine giant Baidu and robot startup Ainemo launched a home robot “Fenshenyu” powered by Baidu’s AI assistant platform DuerOS in late April.

The so-called “robot” cannot move around the house with you and barely does more things than an iPad. It also has a standalone camera. Its manufacturer Ainemo claims that you only need to say the name of the television show that you want to watch, and the robot will quickly search and play it for you. But the fact is that it is sometimes difficult to find the video even when the show is searched manually.

Yumai weighing scale

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.36.29 PM
Photo from Iyunmai.com

This product not only measures your weight, body fat, and other data, but it also synchronizes these data into your smartphone.

Although the scale claims to be a good tool to help users keep fit by tracking their health data, the fact is that people seldom pay attention to their diet and workout after reading the numbers on the scale.

If these aforementioned smart home appliances are flawed, then the following one will be just ridiculous.

An air monitoring desk

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 6.40.30 PM
Photo from Hehedesk.com

Heilian Shuzhuo is literally translated as “dark desk” from Mandarin. Priced at RMB 3,498 (USD 506), this wooden desk can monitor your surroundings and keep records of your habits.

According to its website, it can keep records of the light intensity, air quality and humidity indoors. The desk manufacturer has probably embedded sensing systems inside the desk. If so, why should a user buy this instead of buying a normal desk and a sensing system separately?

These smart home appliances’ seemingly unnatural interactions with people are a sign that the industry is still in its early stages and a lot more improvements are needed to push this forward. Let’s hope that tech companies will continue to perfect smart gadgets, and leave out complicated and unnecessary functions for the sake of practicality.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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Heather Wang
Heather is a writer at ACT. She is passionate about literature, photography and technology. She graduated from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics with a Master's Degree. Write to her: heather[at]allchinatech.com

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