IFA 2018 is drawing to a close, and with most of the show’s big announcements over and done with, startups are taking center stage. They’ve got a captive audience: the more than 250,000 exhibitors, media, and members of the public in town for one of the year’s largest consumer electronics shows.
We scouted the show floor for standouts and didn’t come away disappointed. Here are the four most intriguing products we managed to track down.
There’s only so much emotion a text message can convey to a loved one or significant other. So why not send something a bit more personal?
Enter the Lovebox Spinning Heart Messenger, a handcrafted, Wi-Fi-connected beechwood box with a concealed mirrored panel that displays stickers and messages up to 168 characters in length. Notes sent via an app (for Android and iOS) set a cartoon heart affixed to the front spinning, letting the recipient know they’ve got something waiting for them. There are three designs to choose from: a white paper heart (for “poets and romantics”), a pixel heart (for “geeks … full of love”), and a gold heart (for “brilliant love messages”).
Recipients reply by spinning the heart themselves, which sends an in-app “rainfall of hearts” animation to up to 20 friends and family members. Future versions of the Lovebox might use voice recognition to transcribe messages and allow senders to schedule messages for future dates, the French startup told VentureBeat.
More than 10,000 units have been shipped to folks who backed it on Kickstarter, and the Lovebox is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and upscale shopping department Le Bon Marché in Paris. It’ll be available on Amazon in Europe and in other unnamed territories ahead of the holiday season this year, when stock replenishes.
Mitte Water Purifier
Mineral water, scientists say, is good for you. A 2016 study found that good ol’ H2O containing bicarbonates, sulfate, calcium, magnesium, and other compounds had “intrinsic” health benefits, such as improved digestion, the promotion of bone growth, and decreased hypertension. But unless you live near a natural spring, you’re stuck buying the pricey bottled stuff.
That motivated Karan Sarin and a Berlin team of like-minded engineers to create Mitte, a $500 water purifier that remineralizes up to 400 liters using cartridges of nutrients. There’s three on tap, each with slightly different flavors: the neutral-tasting Balance (which includes magnesium, potassium, and calcium), the “sharp” Vitality (iron, selenium, manganese, and zinc), and the “complex” Alkaline.
Mitte connects via Wi-Fi to a companion app, which provides access to information about water quality and water temperature controls. It’s also where you can stock up on new cartridges — Balance, Vitality, and Alkaline will cost roughly $46, $52, and $58, respectively, and will purify about 250 liters of water each.
The team’s off to a running start. The initial Kickstarter campaign hit about $316,756 from 827 backers, easily surpassing the goal of $87,027. And last week Mitte announced a $10.6 million seed round backed by Danone Manifesto Ventures, VisVires New Protein Capital, and Kärcher New Venture, which it said will fuel expansion into the U.S. market.
Preorders are currently closed (those who backed the Kickstarter will receive their units in June), but a waitlist is available on the official website. The team plans to open popup stores in the U.S., U.K., China, and Berlin later this year and is talking with manufacturers like Whirlpool, LG, and Samsung about integrating its tech into home appliances.
Let’s face it: Smart home lighting is a dull affair, by and large. The average internet-connected bulb or lighting fixture can only perform so many routines, few of which are usually worth the effort required to get them up and running. But Nanoleaf is different.
The Canadian company’s flagship product, Canvas — Wi-Fi-connected color-changing LED panels that adhere to your wall — made waves when it debuted a few months back. And at IFA 2018, the team announced a ship date and under-the-hood improvements.
When the 9-panel Canvas starter kit goes on sale for $199 in December, it’ll come with a smartphone app that’ll let you choose from hundreds of preset designs or create your own. Touch-sensitive button icons at the bottom edge will toggle the panels, shuffle through colors, or enable a “music mode” that’ll sync the lights with sound. And they’ll work with the Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri (thanks to support for Apple’s HomeKit), plus web-based automation service IFTTT and Razer’s Chroma software for PCs.
The Nanoleaf Canvas is available for preorder on Nanoleaf’s website and the Home Depot.
Bescent Sensorwake Trio
Alarm clocks aren’t merely an unpleasant way to wake up in the morning — they’re also potentially hazardous to your health. According to the results of a recent University of Munich study, early alarms are frequently to blame for “social jet lag,” or a disparity between the amount of time you sleep on workdays versus weekends.
That’s why two-year-old French startup Bescent set out to create something less jarring. Their take on the deskside alarm clock — the Sensorwake Trio — combines sound, smell, and sight to get you out of bed.
The Sensorwake Trio comes with scent capsules — more than nine varieties in all, including peppermint, seaside, pine forest, fresh-baked cookies, grass meadow, rose garden, chocolate, cappuccino, orange juice, and roses — that send aromas up to 1.5 meters in all directions. Bescent said the cartridges, which were created in collaboration with Swiss fragrance company Givaudan, last about a month and use dry diffusion without “liquids, heating elements, mist, or mess.”
The Sensorwake Trio’s other wake-inducing elements are a flickering light ring and a speaker that plays one of five “motivating melodies.” Bundles with two scent capsules will start at $79 when the clocks begin shipping later this year; a bundle with 12 scents will cost $99.
Bescent also sells Disney and Universal-licensed $60 alarm clocks for kids made in partnership with European electronics company Lexibook. A representative told VentureBeat that the company’s working on follow-ups to the current product line, but didn’t have details to share yet.