LG announced the latest version of its AI chip, which is enabling new features across the company's product portfolio...
Like all of its rivals, LG is taking advantage of AI to add pizzazz — and ideally some differentiation — to a lineup of classic consumer electronics products, some of which haven’t done anything fundamentally different in well over 50 years, if not longer.
In its half-hour presentation at CES 2021, LG summarized recent product improvements, introduced some new products and features, and talked about a few advances to come later in 2021. The subtext for much of the presentation was COVID-19, just as it was for Samsung, Panasonic, and other consumer electronics companies during theirs.
LG execs never mentioned Covid directly, however. They did make frequent allusions to how our lives have changed: we’re all spending far more time at home, and we’re placing increased value on “health and wellness.” Credit the company with not bludgeoning its audience with overt references to the pandemic when rolling out one product after another that clearly referred to the pandemic.
For example, LG announced a new UV-emitting robot designed to sanitize surfaces in offices, schools, and other non-residential sites. The company plans to begin selling the CLOi family of cleanser robots later this year.
LG also highlighted a new line of rigid masks with plastic bodies that incorporate HEPA 3 filters, small fans, and a sensor that identifies whether the wearer is inhaling or exhaling and signals the fans to respond accordingly. This mask line, called PuriCare, was originally announced in August with the first products arriving on the market in November.
The company previously built ultraviolet light emitters for sanitization into a line of standalone water purifiers. For the first time it has built that technology (called UVnano) into new refrigerator models that are equipped with water dispensers, to keep the dispensers’ nozzles clean.
Most of LG’s more clever product innovations were based on artificial intelligence (AI), however.
The company is building washing machines that come with AI that can sense fabric texture and load size, and automatically adjust the settings accordingly. That might be more useful than one might have thought. It turns out that 90 percent of all people set their machines to “normal” and never change it, according to LG vice president Brandt Varner, the company’s US home appliance product manager.
Tim Alessi, senior director, US home entertainment product marketing, talked about the company’s new TVs, among them several OLED screen models that will incorporate the company’s latest intelligent processor, the α9 Gen 4 AI.
The previous Gen 3 version of the chip was used to remove noise, and optimize contrast and saturation. The Gen 4 processor enables several new capabilities. It can recognize onscreen “objects,” such as faces and bodies. “It detects objects and backgrounds — and processes both separately — for clearer text,” Alessi said.
The same capability can be used to enhance the illusion of image depth. The α9 Gen 4 processor can also detect the genre of the content, and further optimize picture quality, for example adjusting the amount of light in scenes, the company said.
Just prior to CES, the company announced a line of QNED Mini LED TV models. Alessi said that in those models, the α9 Gen 4 processor leverages deep learning to enhance upscaling, “making content of any quality look picture-perfect on the large, self-emissive displays.”
The Samsung presentation included a pair of cameos. One was Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Nvidia has a program called G-Sync in which it works with display companies to ensure that computer game graphics render as well as technologically possible on their screens. Nvidia brough G-Sync support to LG 4K screens in 2019. This year, it did the same for LG 8K screens.
The other cameo was perhaps more interesting. Reah Keem was introduced as a songwriter, DJ, and an “influencer” (she has over 6,000 followers on Instragram and a song you can listen to on SoundCloud). Keem introduced LG’s new CLOi robot, new Gram laptops built around 11th Gen Intel Core Tiger Lake processors, and a few other new products. Whatever one thinks of influencers, this one was particularly notable in that she was entirely computer-generated. LG didn’t provide many details, but did say Keem was created using machine learning techniques.
Samual Chang, LG vice president in charge of its North American Innovation Center, closed the presentation talking about what’s in store for the LG ThinQ app. It can currently be used to control the company’s connected products. Chang said it’s going to become an “intelligent lifestyle platform.” What that meant wasn’t precisely clear, but it will involve inviting technology partners to participate in an “open collaborative ecosystem.”