Samsung's Incubator Lab Is Making Indoor Sunlight And A Robot Friend That Definitely Won't Murder You

An innocent family interacting with their new robotic companion piBo, presumably about 30 seconds before he goes full “I, Robot” on their asses. (Photo: Samsung)

Samsung’s in-house incubator program, Creative Lab, has developed a reputation for brewing off-the-wall innovations it feels like few people, if any, asked for. Since opening its doors in 2012, it’s spawned projects like a 360-degree wearable camcorder, an AI-driven desk lamp, and a recording app specifically geared toward the ASMR crowd. Now the company’s pulled back the curtain ahead of next month’s showcase at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, revealing several new creations from its C-Lab cohorts.

Samsung will feature five projects at Eureka Park, CES’ hub for upcoming startups, all themed to promoting a convenient and healthy lifestyle. One that particularly caught my attention, me being the homebound tech goblin that I am: SunnySide, a window-shaped device that lets off artificial sunlight, complete with all that “essential” vitamin D shit and everything.

This device, which apparently attaches to the wall as easily as a picture frame, “helps users synthesise vitamin D from indoors or in places where there isn’t a sufficient amount of sunlight without worrying about skin ageing or sunburn,” Samsung says. It also simulates the spectrum of real sunlight, which people tell me is lovely.

Illustration: Samsung

Samsung’s C-Lab program provides employees with a year sabbatical to pursue projects outside their core job functions. Samsung says that, so far, it’s been responsible for the launch of 40 startups working in everything from artificial reality to healthcare to the Internet of Things. There hasn’t exactly been a break-out commercial success among the bunch so far, but Samsung continues to throw its full weight behind the initiative, no doubt in part because it has drummed up plenty of press with its wacky innovations.

“We will actively support C-Lab to create products that reflect the latest market trends and customer demands and will showcase outstanding projects and startups of C-Lab in various global exhibitions,” said Samsung vice president Inkuk Hahn in a statement.

You can check out the rest of Samsung’s C-Lab projects debuting at CES below:

SelfieType: A virtual keyboard by way of your device’s selfie camera; it uses AI to track your finger movements and convert that into typing. According to Samsung, it’s designed to be adaptable to everything from phones and tablets to laptops.

Hyler: While digital highlighters have been on the market for a while now, Samsung’s created one that comes equipped with some modern creature comforts endemic to the smartphone age, like a “search mode” and built-in links to online dictionaries and search engines.

Becon: A device that diagnoses the user’s best bet at preventing hair loss based on an analysis of their scalp. OK, I take back what I said before: I’m sure plenty of folks have asked for something like this.

Ultra V: For you heathens that do venture outside, this sensor records ultraviolet rays for various health applications (monitoring Vitamin D production, managing skin conditions related to UV-rays, etc.) and can apparently be easily slotted into existing wearable devices.

A few spin-offs from C-Lab Outside—Samsung’s assistance program for tech startups outside its network—will also be featured at CES, such as an app to control devices hands-free via eye and fingertip tracking and a group video chat for up to eight people.

The most adorable, though, is inarguably “piBo”: a humanoid robot companion designed to make living alone a little less lonely by chatting with you, providing suitable responses based on contexts like your facial expression or the topic at hand. He also sings and dances! “Cute robot always with you,” reads the slogan on its launch site. Wait, did I say “adorable”? I meant terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Kindly keep that mechanical devil away from me, Samsung.

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