During spring break a few weeks ago, I spent a few days as an assistant landlord. My mother owns some rental properties in Georgia, and I just happened to be in town while a new renter was moving in. I was happy to help with a few last-minute errands, especially since my sister had done the bulk of the scrubbing after the old tenants moved out. Basically, she had slaved for several weeks, and I rode into town, worked for two days and took all the credit. This has long been my preferred approach to work of any kind.
The rental house needed a new refrigerator, so I went to Lowe’s with mom’s credit card to buy one. I was shopping in the “no frills” department in appliances, just wanting an inexpensive fridge that would get the job done. But while I was there, I couldn’t help but glance at the upscale models. You know, just to see how the other half lives. That’s when I discovered the Samsung Family Hub.
If you haven’t seen one, just picture plugging a Roku into your ice box. First, we had smartphones, then smart televisions. I guess it was only a matter of time before the fridge got wise. As Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act.”
The Family Hub is a refrigerator with a smart screen on the front. This screen is intended to replace the family calendar, the family television, the family whiteboard, the family grocery list, the family recipe collection, the family photo album, the family computer and the family art museum. I’m sure next year’s model will even replace one of your parents.
Naturally, Samsung has a video ad that illustrates the Family Hub in action. A young girl wearing an astronaut suit is bouncing around the kitchen. She decides to type “Rocket Popsicles” onto the smart grocery list. That screen is synced to her father’s phone, so the frozen treat appears on his shopping list. While the Family Hub will order your groceries for you online, this father takes his daughter to the supermarket — still in her space gear — and buys the galactic popsicles. All this happens while the song “I’ve Got a Ticket To the Moon” plays in the background, and as the Samsung motto “Live Beautiful” flashes on the screen.
The Hub even comes with a personalized assistant named Bixby, presumably after the late Bill Bixby, who was the star of the hit TV series “My Favorite Martian.” Yes, the Jetsons would have loved this device. But the promo only highlights one feature of the Family Hub. For instance, the screen allows you to look inside the fridge to check to see if you are out of eggs without actually opening the door. Because we all know what a tough job that is.
The Hub basically becomes the central command station for the family. It is the place to leave notes for each other, post digital artwork, check the weather, upload photos, stream music and keep a running to-do list. What people used to accomplish around the breakfast table can now be done with cold efficiency at the fridge, without the entire family ever needing to be in the same room together ever again. Ever.
Lowe’s had the Samsung Family Hub priced at nearly $3,000. I noticed it had been marked down and asked if the salesman had sold any of them. He said, “no.”
Maybe — just maybe — families will decide they don’t need a Siri in the crisper. While I suspect appliance makers are just getting started putting smart technology into everything, it may be that the novelty of having digital devices in every square inch of your home has peaked. Perhaps we will someday discover as a culture that we don’t need to view Snapchat on the hairdryer or place an order for Pop-Tarts directly from the toaster oven.
Heaven help us if they come up with smart throw pillows.
You: Hi, Alexa.
Alexa: You’ve put on weight since you sat here last. Ha, Ha, Ha.
It’s hard enough for families to talk. Now imagine dinner conversations post Hub:
Dad: How was your field trip, Jimmy?
Jimmy: Meh. Just look at the photos I posted to the fridge.
Samsung claims its new gadget will “bring families closer than ever.” But if the refrigerator replaces the dinner table as the clearing house for family info, will we actually get closer?