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The Ideas Behind the Home of the Future

I was in high school when I toured the Home of the Future in the 1960s at the New York World's Fair. As I recall, it had a fast-cooking oven, lots of chrome appliances and an interior design from the Starship Enterprise.

The future home I saw this fall was much more interesting and much more likely to become a reality. This home knew your favorite music and TV shows, responded to voice commands, and tracked the food in the refrigerator. It also knew when grandma got out of bed at night and when she forgot to take her medication.

The home was part of the Future Tech pavilion at the CEDIA Expo, an annual trade show for companies that specialize in home theater and home control technology. The heartbeat of the house was a computer system that knows who lives in the house and what their routines and preferences are. "The house in intuitive," said Dave Pedigo, CEDIA's senior director of technology. "It understands what the occupants are like."

Mosaiqq CEO Anders Nancke-Krogh demonstrates his company's video panel in the kitchen of CEDIA's Future Technology Pavilion

An example is the home gym. When one of the residents walks in the room for a morning workout, the home network adjusts the lighting, the treadmill and the TV for that person. It might queue up a Jillian Michaels video for Mom or turn on a news channel for Dad. Sensors in the entertainment room will make similar adjustments the video and audio systems, depending on who is sitting in the primary control spot. The house was also equipped with microphones and a voice response similar to Apple’s Siri. Residents could adjust lighting, temperature levels or music simply by asking.

Other sensors were built into a bedroom designed to demonstrate tools for assisting someone in the later stages of life. When they get out of bed late at night, the movement triggers a sensor that turns on the room light at a low level. If the person doesn't return to bed in, say, a half an hour, the system would send an alert to a caregiver.

The bedroom also was equipped with a programmable lock to prevent wandering and a medicine storage box wired to log an entry each time that it's opened. A touch-screen computer from GrandCare Systems was set up to monitor health data and to provide communication links to family and friends.

The focal point of the home's kitchen was a touchscreen video panel embedded into the backsplash of the kitchen counter. Built by Mosaiqq and 3M, the video screen delivered news and entertainment plus recipes with cooking instructions displayed in videos.

Pedigo said CEDIA built the house to demonstrate products and technologies that are available now and could be in wide use by 2016. One exception was a 3D immersion room developed by Purdue University that use three video projection screens to dominate your field of vision. But if you were willing to write a big enough check, you could probably have one of those as well.

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