The food in Berlin is unlikely to turn any heads. The local speciality is sausage with curry sauce – the ubiquitous currywurst. If you’re still peckish later, you can fill up on a pretzel the size of a rug beater. It gets worse – the German edition of Masterchef, advertised on billboards around town, is called Meisterkoch. But in the halls of IFA, Europe’s biggest tech fair, new gadgetry is being cooked up into a much more appetizing proposition.
The most overpowering smell is emanating from the 3D kitchen. For all of our will-it-won’t-it-work talk, you’d be mad not to come away from IFA with a sense that perhaps we’ve been a bit hard on poor old 3D. Perhaps three days of wearing 3D specs has skewed our vision a bit, but the amount of money, time and effort being poured into a new future of video entertainment is impossible to ignore.
3D technology is available. It works. And now there is another hill to climb – making 3D vids to pipe to the mass of 3DTVs being produced. Sky is launching its 3D channel in October and the preview offerings are quite impressive. We scoffed at 3D golf, but having seen the undulating curves of the green first-hand in 3D, I’m a bit of a convert. And I don’t even like watching golf. Boxing also looks great, darts (surprisingly) less so. More or less everyone has seen animation and CGI rendered in 3D, and won’t be surprised to hear that it still looks amazing. And wildlife footage is astonishing in its depth and detail, even if the sight of swarms of insects knitting around each other in the nest isn’t for the squeamish.
Does 3DTV have a future? If you ask IFA, the answer’s a resounding ‘yes’. I pressed a few companies on when they’d give up on 3D if punters didn’t start buying third-dimensional tellies in the next year or two. Their answer: we won’t. They are committed to evolving 3DTV, and evangelical about its potential. 3D is no seasonal menu item – it’s here to stay.
Elsewhere, we’ve seen plenty of tablets – from rushed Chinese iPad clones to Samsung’s dinky 7in Galaxy Tab. The latter was the darling of the show, surrounded continuously by purring gadgeteers stroking it’s smooth white plastic back and prodding at its capacative screen. The size really works, too – is it possible that in future we’ll have a series of differently-sized tablets for different occasions? A phone (3.5in), a Dell Streak (5in), a Samsung Galaxy S (7in), an iPad (9.7in), a laptop (13in), a desktop replacement laptop (17in) and so on. I can see it happening, actually. You'll choose which gadgets to take out in the same way you decide what shirt to wear.
So that’s the meat and potatoes of IFA trends. On to the side dish: internet connected, app-driven everything. To be honest, you’d have to be a bit of a monkey not to have seen this coming, but apps are going to be everywhere. I remain to be convinced that this will be a good thing, but we should at least get some improved user interfaces. A few companies are committing (quite sensibly) to web apps, rather than attempting the tricky business of luring app developers away from Apple’s high ground (Samsung is offering cash to devs defecting to its camp, not a strategy that’s likely to engender loyalty or passion, you’d think). Anyway, the app ball is rolling and won’t stop until it hits a wall or gathers enough pace to fly.
For dessert, we have content. It’s a horrible word, used to make the collective work of writers, actors, musicians, designers and producers sound as clinically unartistic as possible. Why? Because the people who make your television, tablet, phone and console want also to be in charge of selling you games, music, films, TV shows and books. Hundreds of deals are being announced at IFA, and we fear many more are being spun, too. It could go either way – all things to all people, or a fractured marketplace that will only be healed by an intergalactic legal battle fought by future generations. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
And on that note, we’re off for a currywurst. In our helicopter. Auf wiedersehen!
[thanks to TomTom for letting us borrow their helicopter]