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[CES 2021] Samsung, LG put home at center of innovation under pandemic

CES 2021 kicks off amid hopes for new technologies to help humanity in new normal era after pandemic

The first-ever all-digital Consumer Electronics Show kicked off Monday against the backdrop of the unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic, virtually gathering tech giants around the world to showcase new technologies and innovations.

It is the first time that the world’s biggest tech trade show is being held online, since its inception in 1967.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, the biggest participants in CES 2021, kicked off the four-day event by holding online press conferences Monday night, Korean time.

The Korean tech titans both highlighted home as the center of tech innovation in this era of the new normal after the pandemic. 

Samsung presented new innovative products under the main theme “Better Normal for All.” 

Seung Hyun-joon, president of Samsung Research, the company’s key research arm, took the stage to highlight Samsung’s efforts in human-centered technologies and innovation. 

Samsung Research President Seung Hyun-joon speaks during a press conference at CES 2021 on Monday. (Samsung Electronics)
Samsung Research President Seung Hyun-joon speaks during a press conference at CES 2021 on Monday. (Samsung Electronics)

“COVID-19 has brought about a transition into a new normal of non-contact and some difficulties, but we should make efforts together to move toward a better normal,” Seung said during his introductory speech. “Samsung will actively contribute to this through its human-centered technologies and innovation.” 

Along with an array of home appliances that offer greater customization options for individual consumers, like the Bespoke series, Samsung unveiled a new artificial intelligence-based home appliance -- a robotic cleaner.

Dubbed Samsung JetBot AI, the new cleaner features an AI processor by Intel and enhanced lidar and 3D sensors for more accurate self-navigation, Samsung said.

Samsung also announced the first SmartThings Pet service together with the robot cleaner, which helps owners to take care of both the house and pets by remote control in real time.

JetBot AI and the SmartThings Pet service will be launched in Korea and the US in the first half of this year. 

(Samsung Electronics)
(Samsung Electronics)

Samsung also revealed a robot for the kitchen currently under development. Named Samsung Bot Handy, it is designed to help with household chores like setting the table and cleaning up after meals.

“Robots are at the peak of AI-based customized service,” Seung said. “The key is to making robots play the role of companion for humans through optimal combination of hardware and software.” 

Samsung also showcased an upgraded edition of its Samsung Bot Care for the elderly. 

A set of evolved AI technologies are being applied to Samsung products in pursuit of optimal customization, Seung said.

He mentioned that deep learning-based Samsung TVs automatically upscale content to 4K or 8K, while optimizing sound quality by analyzing the surroundings. 

The Grande AI washing machine and dryer optimize performance through continuous learning of users’ behaviors and patterns, he said.

In addition to the AI-based products, Samsung introduced new AI services SmartThings Cooking and Samsung Health.

The cooking service, using Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator and smart oven, helps users manage the process from purchasing food items to cooking, tailored to their tastes. It will be launched in Korea and the US in the first quarter.

Samsung’s smart TVs for 2021 will feature an AI-based Smart Trainer that offers customized home training content. 

LG Electronics pledged to make continuous efforts to innovate technologies for the sake of its customers during a press conference titled “Life is ON.”

“In an era with unexpected changes at a rapid rate, LG will offer ways to make customers live a better life with convenience and fund, and protect their lives in a safe manner,” said CEO Kwon Bong-seok during the LG press conference. “We will not stop its journey of innovation.”

LG executives appeared on the stage to introduce the company’s new products and services and stressed that customer value is their top priority.

As people do more and more things at home these days, LG’s presentation focused on the new services it has developed in its efforts to become a lifestyle platform.

The company’s LG ThinQ smart home app has been expanded beyond its earlier role as a remote controller for home appliances.

Thanks to partnerships with various global companies, such as Nestle and Kraft-Heinz, consumers can use the LG app to order food products from those firms. The products can be scanned with smartphones to bring up recipes.

LG has also joined hands with US-based HomeAdvisor to provide extra care services for home appliances, it said. 

Reah Keem (LG Electronics)
Reah Keem (LG Electronics)

The highlight of LG’s conference was the first appearance of a virtual human named “Keem Reah.”

LG developed the virtual human by using AI technologies. Reah learns through 3D images and took part in the press conference as one of the speakers.

Virtual human Reah introduced LG’s CLOi DisinfectBot on behalf of the company, as well as the new LG Gram laptop and the new UltraFine OLED Pro monitor featuring a new OLED panel. 

The company also briefly unveiled the first rollable smartphone in a short video clip, hinting at the imminent commercialization of the mobile gadget. 

(LG Electronics)
(LG Electronics)

By Song Su-hyun (