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Nifty and stylish is aim at Berlin gizmo fair

Against a backdrop of flat-panel TV screens and energy-efficient washing machines, a number of nifty gadgets and chic devices stand out at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, aimed at simplifying modern life — with style.
Image: Berlin consumer electronics fair
A visitor walks past flat-screen televisions at the stand of Korean electronic company Samsung during the preparations of the IFA Consumer Electronics Trade Fair, at Berlin's fair ground.Philipp Guelland / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Against a backdrop of flat-panel TV screens and energy-efficient washing machines, a number of nifty gadgets and chic devices stand out at the IFA consumer electronics fair in Berlin, aimed at simplifying modern life — with style.

From products with personalities to portable green gizmos and multi-function devices, manufacturers are hoping fun paired with innovation will tempt consumers to part with their cash.

Shaped like a Frisbee and small enough to glide under a couch or bed, Roomba is part robot, part pet.

Developed by U.S. company iRobot, the device has sensors that guide the machine around obstacles as it cleans parquet floors and carpets all on its own.

More deluxe models come with "virtual walls" — infrared sensors that fence off no-go-zones in different rooms.

"You switch it on, leave the house and by the time you get home, he's parked back at his charger like a faithful pet," said the spokesman of German distributor Klein & More.

The Roomba 563 Pet version hoovers up animal hair and stray fodder, while its brother the Scooba 386 washes floors up to 80 square meters in size by sucking up dirty water as it moves.

With its blinking green eyes and cheerful bright face, the Good News combined espresso machine and radio from Amici aims to put even the grumpiest of morning people in a good mood as it wafts out music alongside the scent of coffee.

"Whenever I walk past it in the kitchen I have to smile," said Ulis Greco, the product's key account manager in Germany. "He winks every time I make an espresso."

The machines come in an array of bright colors and have interchangeable aerial motifs for personalization.

Sony hopes to sweeten the morning wake-up call with an alarm clock that combines a seven inch LCD digital screen with a sliding iPod dock.

Sleepers can awake to their favorite music and photos or even record their own personalized message via the built-in microphone.

Cable control
In line with the trend for stylish innovation is "Viktor," an air filter system from Swiss firm Stadler Form that promises to unburden rooms of unpleasant smells.

A filter cleanses the air, trapping dust, viruses and bacteria, while a carbon filter absorbs oppressive odors such as tobacco smoke — or if like the Swiss you enjoy fondue, cheese — said company director Martin Stadler.

The compact free-standing device, available in minimalist black and white, is designed to blend into its surroundings. It will join its brother product, air humidifier "Oskar," on the shelves from October.

Oreo Black, Jelly Pink, Blueberry Purple, Applemint Green and Hawaiian Blue may sound like an assortment of lip gloss flavors but are in fact South Korean LG Electronics Inc's new shades for its W30 Color Pop 37 millimeter slim monitors.

Meanwhile Japanese competitor JVC presented its seven millimeter LCD TVs, that unlike clunkier predecessors can be assembled as part of wall units.

French electronics company Thomson aims to simplify control over ever-increasing gadgets by producing a universal remote that steers up to 10 different appliances.

An interactive color LCD display allows five different users to personalize their settings.

As many companies highlight the interconnectivity of their devices, Bavarian company Hama showcased its prototype of an HDMI transmitter that sends a signal through cables in the wall to other household appliances.

The prototype that simplifies the connection of Internet devices, such as laptops and mobiles, to the TV screen, is in its final stages of development and is likely to be launched at the CeBIT telecommunications trade fair in 2010.

"Not only does it eliminate the need for a long cable but it means the HDMI signal can be transmitted over greater distances than ever before," said Karl Schaber, Hama's product advisor at IFA — the world's oldest consumer electronics trade fair.

Hama also presented its weatherproof Solio Solar Charger, a durable solar-celled device that stores power from the sun and socket. A carabineer clips the device onto rucksacks for charging mobile phones on the move. It's priced at 79 euros.

The IFA consumer electronics fair opens its doors to the public on Friday and runs until September 9.