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German tech group develops scanner to analyze food and clothes for easy stain cleaning


Tech companies these days want our houses to become smarter and smarter. They want our appliances to talk to each other and just do things without us having to tell them what to do. At these big trade shows, we joke about smart refrigerators and smart washers. None of it really makes sense upon first hearing the ideas, but German appliance company Bosch has developed something that ties the concepts together in an interesting way: a scanner that can analyze your stained clothes for easy washing.

The “X-Spect” wand is a stain scanner that Bosch demoed at IFA 2017, Berlin’s huge technology tradeshow from earlier this September. In addition to identifying stains, the X-Spect can analyze the origin of the stain, namely food content and their nutritional value, such as the ripeness of a fruit. It’s a strange dual-function device.

The scanner looks like a small remote control or weird voice recorder, only weighing a little less than half a pound. The way it works is that you hold it up to a piece of soiled clothing, and, after a few seconds, it can tell you the type of material it’s made up of and the origin of the stain. For example, it can scan a sweater, determine it’s made of wool, and then tell you someone spilled coffee on it. It then sends this information to a connected Bosch washer and sets it to the most efficient wash cycle to rid your clothes of that coffee stain.

The technology behind the device is a pair of optical scanners and cloud computing. The X-Spect’s sensors looks at the clothing and sends its reading to the cloud where an algorithm deciphers what it’s actually looking at.

Bosch hopes to expand on its ability to identify food components as well, with talks of integrating the technology into refrigerators for smart storage or ovens that can automatically be set up to cook certain foods. For instance, you could scan a pizza and have the oven automatically start the preheating process.

Bosch is even open to making the X-Spect open source, allowing it to interface with appliance from other companies.

The X-Spect is still in the concept phase, with no word on price or release. Still, it’s valuable in learning what practical use can come from these smart home appliances.