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Next: An MP3 washing machine?

Lamont Wood reports on a patent application for a music-playing laundry appliance -- which could go right next to your high-def refrigerator

By Lamont Wood
July 27, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Just when you thought it was safe to go into the laundry room -- where you'd be away from phones that do everything but park your car, because the car does that by itself -- they've gone and done it.

LG Electronics Inc. has filed patent application U.S. 2007/0118862 A1 for a "home appliance with an MP3 player comprising the MP3 player adapted for storing contents; and a washing device for washing or drying clothes, the washing device being connectable with the MP3 player and having a communication function with the MP3 player to play back the contents stored in the MP3 player."

That's right, a washing machine (or dryer -- they're not picky) with a built-in MP3 player.

A sketch from LG Electronics' patent application that shows what the device might look like.  
A sketch from LG Electronics' patent application that shows what the device might look like.

"In answer to your question, no, I don't think that there is any ongoing trend involving the addition of MP3 players to everything that doesn't move," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, a consumer technology and market research firm in Dallas. "On the other hand, it's not too far-fetched to think that someone might want to listen to their music while participating in a mundane chore, such as doing the laundry. But, honestly, I don't get it -- why not just crank up the stereo or clip your iPod to your belt?"

"To me, it doesn't make a world of sense," agreed Tom Dair, president of Smart Design, an international design, product development and brand communications firm in San Francisco. "Whistling while you work is helpful, but having the complexity of an MP3 player in your washing machine seems like a mismatch. If you love music, you probably have a wireless system set up in your home, so why bring in this device, which is probably located in a small room?

"Another disconnect is that a washer/dryer is not a portable item," Dair added. "An MP3 player makes sense if you're walking down the street, but I'm not seeing many people on the street with a washer/dryer. You're adding a mobile feature to a product that is anchored to the ground in a specific place where you don't spend a lot of time relaxing, or even sitting. But if it makes your clothes come out cleaner, that would be great."

Predictably more upbeat about this development was John I. Taylor, spokesman for patent applicant LG Electronics USA in Linconshire, Ill. "It's an interesting concept, and it is common in the technology field to apply for patents for new and interesting concepts," he said. "It is way too soon to say whether a product will come from the patent, but in the U.S. a washer/dryer with an MP3 player is not part of our product road map at this time," he added.



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