Home is the place you stay, sleep, relax, entertain, eat, do exercises, and much more. It is a place where you and your family spend a lot of time, perhaps the most of your time. But is it?
If we imagine the car of the future and project a high-tech steering wheel, translucent windshield displays of speed and fuel gauge, sophisticated digital devices with entertainment features, fancy dashboard gages, or project big, powerful fuel engines, complex shifting gears, and other such features, then we should quickly realize that we are on the wrong track; the car of the future is already shifting towards a more simplistic autonomous car with no steering wheels, an electric engine and overall, very very simple design, as Google has shown in their latest prototype of their Google Car.
The home of the future is likely to follow similar footsteps.
In the same way that we won’t need a steering wheel in autonomous cars, perhaps we won’t need a kitchen for every home. Or at least, the kitchen will become so simple that it won’t be recognizable to what we have today. A dishwasher or a washing machine may be useless if dishes and clothes become treated using nanotechnology to not get dirty or wet. The same goes for many other devices that we currently use for home maintenance, such as vacuum cleaners, carpet shampooers, curtain steamers, rubber gloves and all kinds of caustic solutions for cleaning.
You see, if we are to imagine the kinds of technologies that will be present in the future in such a home concept, we must also recognize that the idea of ‘home’ may change quite a lot. Many people prefer to eat at restaurants, go to a gym for exercise, or look for entertainment elsewhere than at home.
So, without a complex kitchen, dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, and perhaps more, what might the home of the future look like, and what will replace the utility of those machines that we might no longer need?
With that in mind, let’s imagine life in such a futuristic house/apartment.
Emma arrives home and the door automatically unlocks through her smart-device (let’s say a smartphone). She only has to approach the door for it to open for her. She can even open the door from anywhere in the world using her smartphone.
Lockitron is already providing all of these features. Fingerprint door lock is another concept already in use today, although in The Venus Project, no one would have any reason to steal anything from your house; they will have equal access to all of the same things you have. Still, just in case you were wondering about privacy, there are plenty of automated solutions today.
Emma enters her house. Her clothes are nanotechnology treated so they don’t get dirty or wet. They also repel bacteria, fungi and bad odors, and even prevent sunlight from burning her skin when she is out. (source1)(source2)(source3)
Such clothes can even monitor her health. (source)
That same nanotechnology also keeps the house clean and dust-free. (source)
The walls and mirrors in the house serve as an interface for controlling the house and displaying personalized ‘desktops’ wherever needed. A full-featured Operating System runs ‘in the cloud’ and can be streamed on any wall or mirror in the house or on any personal device (tablet, smartphone, laptop).
ZeroPC is a current example of such an operating system, where you can access a desktop environment (with apps) from any web browser. Windows, Mac OS, Linux (Ubuntu or other flavors) or Android can already be streamed in a variety of ways. A perfect example is an online gaming streaming service called Onlive, that is also capable of streaming a Windows operating system. The great part is that you can play the games they stream without installing any of them, and you can usually use a computer that is less powerful than the games require, since the games are streamed and not installed on your computer.
“A Day Made Of Glass” is a viral video that received millions of hits, showing how any glass surface can be used as a smart screen. They are not only showing prototypes, but functional and already in use technology. Watch this beautifully presented 11-minute video that explains the technology behind “A Day Made Of Glass”.
Click this link to see how that technology looks in reality (pretty close to the concept).
Since transparent glass can be made to display such smart apps, or entire operating systems, then perhaps we can think of embedding glass on any wall in the house, making it a smart wall. More than just displaying a data stream, such glass can be used for monitoring your temperature, assess your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic or even analyze DNA; and even more… (source)
Emma feels at home here, especially with the interior temperature kept exactly as she likes it. Smart ventilation, together with good insulation, enables each home to provide the perfect temperature that the occupants prefer.
We are already used to such systems and there are so many ways of cooling, heating or maintaining the temperature in a home that I doubt providing examples is necessary (there are just too many).
Emma’s bedroom is quite simple, yet very smart. The bed monitors her health and also molds itself to Emma’s body for a personalized comfort. Indeed, all the furniture in the house is this smart. They are designed by physiotherapists to provide for healthy function, rather than just design.
Health-Beds is just one of the many companies focused on creating beds that automatically adjust to the shape of your body and posture, while other companies are already selling beds that monitor your health through a wide variety of sensors. (source) For instance, Beddit is a device that you can put under the sheet so it can track your sleeping patterns, heart rate, breathing, snoring, movements and environment. In the morning, Beddit tells you how you slept and suggests how to do it better.
All lights throughout the home can be controlled with Emma’s personal device (smartphone, tablet) in the same way Lifx technology is working already. Actually, the same goes for anything in Emma’s home: air conditioning, shades, music, water, energy, and so on. All can be controlled with such smart devices. (source1)(source2)
Emma’s mother, Karen, prepares dinner, but in a very different way than we are used to today. From her own personal device, she looks for recipes on the internet. She finds an appealing one, adds her own flavor to it, and then orders the food. An automated food preparer (restaurant, robot) then creates the recipe to her specifications.
The kitchen, as we previously mentioned, might not be much different than any of the other rooms. Perhaps there won’t be any need for a room called “the kitchen”. As we discussed in our previous “AA World” article about goods and services, anyone may be able to order any kind of food through the push of a button, using their smartphone or any kind of smart device. Automated restaurants, as we described in the same article, already exist and can prepare a wide variety of foods. Then, as we detailed in another article in this series, there are a wide variety of autonomous transportation systems that can deliver food right to your home, including drones, cars, or string transportation systems.
Therefore, it is not far-fetched to think that one can order/create custom recipes and get them delivered to their home in a very short amount of time. This system will greatly reduce the amount of overall resources and energy consumed. Just think of the fact that today, every home has a kitchen with an oven, sink, microwave, fridge and so on.
But even if you prefer cooking at home, appliances are becoming more and more ‘digitized’, and by that I mean they can be controlled via an app on your smart device. They are also smart enough to detect when your food is ready, the freshness of the food, and even transform your cooktop into a computer. (source)
The bathroom: The toilet autonomously lifts and lowers the lid, heats the seat, and clean itself. It actually cleans you, as well, through retractable spritzing wands and automatic driers ;). This reduces the energy and resources spent on making toilet paper. In addition, it even includes music to mask unpleasant sounds, deodorizer spritzers and other conveniences. This is actually a common thing in Japan, even more widely adopted there than personal computers. (source)
To reduce water consumption, the sink can be put on top of the toilet so that the water you use to wash your hands will then be used to flush the toilet.
Here is a presentation of a high-tech toilet if you want to know more about – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Xnm1syPnwE
The bathtub or shower, or both, can also be controlled via a wide variety of smart devices. The water pressure and temperature, even the amount of water consumed, can be regulated in a smart way. If Emma wants to take a bath, she can even program that while away from home.
Hydro bathtub is an example of how you can do all that, and even more. And OrbSys Shower is a prototype that can reduce the water consumption by 90%, while it consumes 80% less energy than a normal shower by purifying the water and recycling it.
Body dryers can even eliminate the need of towels, and the bathroom mirror can communicate with the scale which can be part of the body dryer, or can communicate with many other sensors and display data about your health.
Emma’s father, Patrick, wakes up and goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth but there is no toothpaste. He uses an ionic toothbrush that removes plaque and bacteria from the surfaces of teeth and in places that a regular brush cannot reach without the assistance of toothpaste. (source)
UV light can also be used in places such as door knobs, handles and appliances to keep them bacteria-free. (source)
Alex, Emma’s brother, likes to play games, but not those typical of today. He enjoys games that teach him about the world: mathematics, biology, physics, cosmology, chemistry (read our article about Education to be amazed by the many ways there are to rethink the notion of education through games and other means). He can play these games on any wall in the house and without any controller. Kinect-like devices detect complex body motion and transform the player’s body into the controller, so that anyone can play games. He can easily play with family or friends in multiplayer mode.
Some games are designed to keep you in shape. Karen and Patrick play a bicycle racing game that uses real stationary bicycles instead of traditional controllers. The game simulates tracks and everything else as real as possible: the speed you are pedaling, the bicycle steering mechanism and even your head movement are part of what controls the game. If you were to go uphill, the bicycle reacts to that and forces you to pedal much harder. The best part is that it even produces energy while you are playing.
Their home has no electric plugs, since all electricity is wirelessly transmitted and the house is powered only from renewable sources (solar, geothermal, wind, etc). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckKrxx772hU
A wide variety of sensors and the smart devices that communicate with them make their home very intelligent, able to track water and energy consumption, as well as the occupants health.
The home Emma and her family lives in is completely automated and simple, yet extremely efficient, useful and full of features.
To learn more about home automation technologies, watch the Home of The Future series, a documentary in which a normal house is transformed into a fully automated home using the latest technologies.
A home can look very different than what I am describing here, but the purpose of this article is to show you some examples of present day technologies that can transform any kind of house into an automated smart home.