How often have you wished your house could talk back to you? Never? Me either, promise.
What about having it choose your clothing based on the day’s weather forecast? Still no? Same here, I swear. Free will is great.
I’ve written about the coming smart home before (i.e. made silly jokes about it), but I haven’t yet listed what I want from one. And that’s the fun part, imagining the conveniences/terrors that await us in a house smarter than we are.
The smart home technology usually referenced in pop-sci articles is pretty standard stuff: biometrics that sense what you want before you want it and robotics that make it happen.
The coffee starts brewing when your REM sleep dissolves. The garage door opens up when you pull onto your street.
The toilet seat lifts (or drops down, depending on gender) when your bladder is full. And sings you a song. And closes and flushes after. And says thank you.
All those things are lovely/creepy, but I have other demands. And why shouldn’t I? In Disneyland’s 1957 House of the Future, compact microwaves and wall-mounted televisions appeared as futuristic conveniences, and they are now commonplace.
Behold its bubble-shape, window-walls, and PLASTIC – the building material of the future.
Ray Bradbury loved the smart home. Two of my favorite Bradbury stories, The Veldt and There Will Come Soft Rains, center on the smart home. Both were published in 1950 and describe technology that we are building now.
Robotics do all the housework. Walls project whatever fantasy you like—and do so constantly. In The Veldt, the house-projected fantasy world becomes so alluring to the family’s two children that they murder their parents, fulfilling their wish to live inside the magical “nursery” forever.
There Will Come Soft Rains is equally brilliant. It’s the story of a smart home that doesn’t understand its family—and all humanity—has died, so it goes about its business as normal. It ultimately dies, too, while battling a chemical fire that burns it to the ground.
They are wonderful, quick reads and an easy google search away. Take a break from your violin lessons and check them out.
As for my own smart home of… let’s say… 2027? I have a wish list.
1) Aquarium wall. The aquarium itself isn’t novel, but the upkeep would be. If my home is as smart as promised, then it will do the hard work of balancing ph, monitoring salt content, maintaining temperature, and making sure the octopus doesn’t eat the shark.
We are half-way there already. A google search brought up “SenEye”, a device that monitors all aspects of your aquarium water and alerts you before a problem arises.
You gotta love that future-sinister product name.
2) Rotating View. Either the entire house rotates, or the windows rear-project outside scenery and switch view depending on what I want to see. If the projection is indistinguishable from reality, as I imagine it would be, then we can switch out neighborhood views for vacation-worthy scenery.
This makes me think of Bradbury’s fantasy walls, where the wall is indistinguishable from a simulated horizon.
3) Lasers. I was promised autonomous, long-distance lasers in the 80s, and it still hasn’t happened.
I don’t even know what lasers would do in a smart home. Defense system, probably.
4) Moat and drawbridge. Who says everything in my future house has to be futuristic? I just want this. And with the advanced smart home capacity to monitor and ensure water quality (see #1), I won’t have to worry about stagnation.
You may think this is overkill, wanting a moat and drawbridge AND lasers for home defense. Just remember that home break-in technology will make its own advances.
5) Insect removal. This one goes without saying, but I’m not opposed to all insects. Some will stay on the species green list, given passage as they appear: beetles, jumping spiders, butterflies, roly polies (that’s pill bugs or doodle bugs, depending on where you grew up).
Species red list: house centipedes, ants, fruit flies, wasps.
6) Human body disposal. Smart homes will also help us dispose of bodies. It will store chemicals that can dissolve flesh and bone. Robotic arms will place the body into a hidden receptacle so I don’t have to watch it happen. It may even help with the murder if we can skip Asimov’s pesky laws in the design stage…
Just kidding! It’s a fantasy anyway. By the time smart homes like this exist, there won’t be a square inch left on Earth that isn’t continually monitored by cameras. Premeditated murder (that you can get away with) will be a luxury from a bygone age.
Every time I see a futurism article about smart homes, I think sure, but what about the smart RENTAL homes of the future? As a renter, I get curious. What will the smart home mean for you if its AI, biometrics, and bots are not your personal property? A significant portion of our population rents. That is unlikely to change even when we are all wearing shiny jumpsuits and eating food cubes.
What does your lease agreement look like? Does the renter have rights to tell the home what to monitor, or does the owner? Or do they split the difference 50/50? Can the renter even fully understand what the capabilities are before they move in?
Exciting, right? I bet reading about theoretical fine print in lease agreements is exactly what you hoped for today.
So what’s on your wishlist for a smart house? Maybe you find the whole thing creepy and unnatural. It IS creepy and unnatural, but I’m asking anyway.
Just think—if you have children, a smart home could raise them while you relax in an opium den. And if you don’t have kids, your house could make you think that you do. WIN-WIN.