Samsung is using computer vision to tell you what’s in your fridge

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CES is a yearly ritual to imagine what’s possible and display the strange, innovative, and silly. There can be surprises, but for a highly anticipated conference that attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world, some trends are very predictable: New televisions are rolled out, companies take subtle potshots at the competition (see Apple’s billboard this year), and there seems to always be a commitment that very soon we will all be using the fridge of the future.

Artificial in Samsung’s Family Hub may someday finally deliver on that promise with the introduction of Bixby .

Bixby Vision inside Family Hub, on display at CES, automatically labels items in the fridge, keeping users from having to manually do so using the touchscreen on the front. Bixby Vision for things like visual search or even the augmented reality application of makeup, has been around since 2016, but this is the first time it’s been used to identify food in Family Hub refrigerators.

There is no planned release date for Bixby Vision for refrigerators, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat. It’s more of a concept than a feature today, but it’s easy to imagine the far-reaching impact that vision inside your fridge could have in the lives of users, Samsung’s fight against virtual assistant competitors like Alexa and Google Assistant, and perhaps even the food supply chain someday.

Above: Photo of Bixby Vision on a Family Hub concept fridge shared on the demo floor at CES

For starters, that means you will be able to say “Bixby, do I have apples?” and computer vision will be able to answer your question. That means you may not have to guess how many beers are left or when the milk will go bad.

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To be clear: You can see a live view of your fridge using the Samsung SmartThings , but Bixby Vision opens this up to hands-free voice interaction.

In the future, you can imagine that when Bixby Vision determines you’re low on milk, a new carton will be ordered automatically.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to do this with every single item in my refrigerator, but in my household there’s a list of staples that I want to always have — a good target for automated replenishment.

Amazon is already testing out these waters with Dash Replenishment, and other tech giants are likely to do the same.

Another way computer vision could be practical and useful inside your fridge is that it could someday enable you to ask “Bixby, what can I make for dinner based on what’s in my fridge?”

Above: Cameras share the contents of a Family Hub refrigerator

Like Alexa and Google Assistant, Bixby can already tell you what you can make for dinner if you the assistant a list of ingredients, but if detection of the food you have is automated, then the refrigerator could use its display to share a continuous, ongoing list of meal options.

I must admit, my worst eating decisions come when I get bored or fail to understand what’s possible.

Computer vision could even be helpful when cooking for people with dietary restrictions such as low sodium, vegan, heart healthy, or pregnancy. There could even be recipe suggestions that are great for post workout, that are low cost, or that are just something special.

Finally, another benefit that could come from advanced computer vision in your fridge is the reduction of food waste. Cooking based on what’s in your fridge — and by recognizing when it appears that a head of lettuce or other perishable items appear to be getting old — could keep you from having to throw out food before you get the chance to prepare it.

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That’s not a selling point I think I’ve heard from Samsung, but food waste is a giant squandering of money and natural resources and a contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the developed, industrialized world, according to the United Nations.

All the aforementioned reasons detail why computer vision in a fridge is great for consumers, but it could also have real-world business consequences for Samsung, as it takes advantage of Samsung’s existing presence in everyone’s home.

With more mature intelligent assistants and tens of millions of smart speakers sold, Google and Amazon have a decided lead on Samsung, which has yet to even share a price or release date for its Home smart speaker. But unlike Google and Amazon, which have to make a pitch to be invited into everyone’s home, Samsung is already there.

According to Samsung VP Yoon Lee, Samsung devices can today be found in 70 percent of U.S. households.

As Samsung carries out its strategy to put intelligence in all its devices, Bixby will continue to spread, giving Samsung the chance to fortify its existing home appliance advantage. That will make it possible to ask your fridge what’s for dinner — and potentially redefine how people treat food.

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