22 Dec

Tech Homes of the Future

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We all remember “The Jetsons,” a classic Saturday morning cartoon, featuring a lovely family living in a futuristic utopian society. As you can imagine, there were many aspects of life in Orbit City that were desirous, like Rosie, the Jetson’s household robot who was responsible for household chores. Wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a clean house each day, and to always have someone on hand to help your children with their homework? As 2017 approaches, let’s all take a moment to appreciate how technologically advanced our society has become. Technological ideas that were merely a fantasy back in the Jetson’s era (1960s), are now becoming a reality. We can already monitor our homes from the office by changing the temperature, watching to see if the dog walker has been by, and ensuring that the kids get home from school safely. We can brew a cup of coffee through Bluetooth, FaceTime our friends on the other side of the world, and will soon be able to experience driverless vehicles. Technology is constantly changing and advancing. That being said, we’ve compiled some of the most amazing trends in home tech that may soon be available for our homes.

The Exterior


Tech homes of the future are likely to be very eco-friendly. Your home might incorporate building blocks constructed from natural cement churned out by bacteria, or be fashioned from fungi – indeed several companies including MycoWorks and EvocativeDesign are exploring the potential of mushroom-based materials. Alternatively, super-insulating straw-bale panels appear to be in for a renaissance, while new developments with aerogels also promise a well-insulated abode. Roofs, too, will be working hard. Among the innovations that could take off are super reflective tiles for those in scorching climates and, for the rest of us, biosolar roofs that combine habitat for pollinators with energy-generating panels.

The Kitchen


Sometimes it seems our appetite for tech knows no bounds. So perhaps it is a small wonder that kitchen innovations are moving swiftly in the direction of the future. One thing that’s certainly on the menu is a spare pair of hands to wield the pans – such as a fully robotic chef like Moley that can, by motion tracking, replicate your Jamie Oliver impression to a T or the fetch-and-carry Care-O-Bot4 by Fraunhofer. Not only can the latter turn up with a colander but it can also do the laundry and, apparently, garnish your breakfast tray with a red rose…if you are so inclined.

And it’s cheers all round as be-splattered recipe books and pastry-flecked screens get the boot in favour of hygienic upgrades. Among them is a nifty vertical recipe projector, suggested by Wan-Ru Cin for the James Dyson award, and an even smarter system dreamed up by students at Lund and Eindhoven Universities that not only projects recipes onto the work surface but also uses a canny array of cameras to detect ingredients and offer culinary suggestions accordingly.

Ovens, however, are in for a renaissance. Electrolux’s upcoming ProCombi Plus Smart oven will offer cooks the chance to take a sneak peak on a rising cake without making the rookie error of opening the door, while smart oven June isn’t leaving anything to chance. Just pop in the raw meal and stand well back as its intelligent systems recognize the dish and know exactly how to turn out a perfect result.

The Bathroom


Morning cleansing rituals might seem like a private affair, but that could all change as technology finds its way into the smallest room in the house.

Among those vying to keep an eye on your vital statistics is Withings, whose “Smart Body Analyzer” makes your old nemesis – the bathroom scales – look positively friendly. Claiming to measure your weight, body fat, heart rate and BMI, this handy tech operates via your tiled floor and phone; an accompanying app tracks your activity and adjusts your calorie budget for the day to meet your health goals.

Continuing with the eco-friendly theme, water-wasters will be flagged by warning lights thanks to devices like Drop from Qonserve Technologies that displays a red light when the taps have been left running, while bathroom hoggers will be ousted by “water pebbles” that can be programmed to flash red when bathtime’s up. Baths and showers too will be cleaning up their act, with Orbital Systems developing filters to recycle water as it is used and Nebia offering a water-saving shower based on an intense mist of water rather than a traditional deluge. Our towels might even be cleaned without H2O; designer Leobardo Armenta envisages a nifty device that eschews the washing machine for a doughnut-like contraption with a fan to dry the towel and UV light to kill bacteria.

The Living Room 


The living room is all about kicking back and enjoying yourself, so why not start your weekend wind-down with a cool glass of something festive, delivered to your side by your very own Jetson-esque robot? Android helpmates are already being used in hotels around the world, such as the Cupertino Aloft Hotel in California, where two “ALO Botlrs” deliver items to guest rooms, such as extra towels or room service items. Such robot helpers are likely to become ever more sophisticated, capable not only of fetching the port, but also of having a jolly good natter.

Perhaps a more endearing companion is the robo-pet. The ultimate conclusion to a trend kicked off by the Tamagotchi of the 90s, these zippy creatures – such as the long-awaited Miro – will not only zoom around like their flesh-and-blood counterparts, but also incorporate machine learning so that they adapt to understand your commands with nary a doggy treat in sight.

Also keen to hang on your every word will be AI systems – building on devices like Amazon Echo – that will not only give you a running commentary on news headlines, answer your questions and carry out a host of admin tasks, but also let you know what the weather is up to. Although we’re pretty sure the house of the future will still have windows for that.

Couch potatoes will be blown away by digital devices that transport them to the worlds that they are  engaged in on their televisions, while immersive sound recordings, ultrasound haptic devices and internet connected scent cartridges turn a visual feast into a multi-sensory smorgasbord.

Ultra-thin OLED displays – like LG’s flexible “wallpaper”– will allow us to attach, or peel off, our screens from mounted magnetic backing while holographics, fuelled perhaps by devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens, will bring characters and objects into your living room through augmented reality.

The Bedroom


Technology and sleep are unlikely bedfellows; for years scientists have been wagging their fingers at those who go to bed in the company of the dazzling blue lights of their connected devices. However, when it comes to hitting snooze-mode, technology need not be a nightmare.

White noise generators such as those produced by Ectones are already available, offering the chance to drown out chirpy birds and bickering kids with the comforting sound of a fan or pattering rain – but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what the future could hold.

Rather than one speaker tucked in the corner, why not drift off into an immersive, self-sculpted 3D soundscape – waves lapping at your feet, palm trees rustling above your head, your left ear caressed by the caw of a parrot while the beat of a hummingbird’s wing flutters in your right? It might sound heavenly but, as installations by sound artists such as Martyn Ware have shown, it’s also practically possible. Better still, with the advent of directional audio devices, like those by Dakota Audio, able to beam sound with laser-like precision, your companion could simultaneously be transported to quite a different setting, be it a blustery Arctic tundra, bucolic pasture, or the inside of their dream smart car.

And if all that makes you want to take a nice, deep breath, then you’ll be glad to know that air quality is set for an upgrade too. Smart monitors such as the Foobot and Birdi are already for sale, able to track everything from toxic gases to pollen and even volatile organic compounds (although whether they can sniff out musty socks yet isn’t clear). Just when these will be hooked up to purifying systems is still up in the air but, while you’re waiting, why not ditch those 60-watt bulbs in the bedside lamp? Bioadaptive lamps are already planned – one system was recently installed at the Technology & Innovation Centre of the University of Strathclyde. Tuned into your body clock, or “circadian rhythms” as those in the know call them, they could gently lull you to sleep, or wake you without a jolt.

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