A future vision of drones, smart kitchens and augmented reality came true quicker than anyone expected.
Back in 2015, the Near Future Laboratory, Mobile Life Center and Boris Design Studio produced their impression of an IKEA catalog from 2030. They designed the brief as a believable view of what our future homes could become given the then-growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the smart home industry.
Three years later, the catalog is part of an exhibition on home technology predictions at the London Design Museum. Called Home Futures, the exhibition looks at how we imagined our living spaces would look in the future.
Smart-home dreams of the ’50s are here
Black-and-white videos produced in the 1950s allude to robots that vacuum floors, automation as the key to household chores and virtual reality headsets that can transport us to new worlds. It’s a thoroughly interesting exhibition that demonstrates how smart home dreams of the ’50s and ’60s are now available from Amazon.
The mock-up catalog was produced for research purposes only, not as an official road map for IKEA’s smart home dreams.
Nonetheless, it provides an interesting look at what 2015 thought the smart home of 2030 would look like, as well as how some of it already feels like reality just three years later.
The very first page addresses the balance between consumer technology and personal well-being, something that tech firms now focus on more than ever in 2018.
Instead of systems like Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Wellbeing, the catalog suggests a sofa which can change the color and pattern of its fabric by using a Philips Hue-style lighting system.
Next up, the catalog predicts a future in which a “semi-organic moss-like carpet” can be placed on top of existing flooring like a rug. It’s suggested that such a material would improve air quality — another hot topic in today’s consumer technology industry. That industry already offers air quality monitors and filters for the smart home.
Meanwhile, the catalog shows how future homes could have information, like the current time and outside temperature, displayed digitally on windows — something that feels entirely possible today and reminds us of the smart bathroom mirrors already on sale.
The catalog suggests that news, books and other materials could be delivered regularly to keep your bookshelf up to date. Books are delivered by drone, of course, and the contents of each delivery are personalized based on your “daily activities.” Both of these aspects are closely aligned with what Amazon is doing today: That is, predicting your shopping habits and developing a drone delivery service called Amazon Prime Air.
With a nod to 3D printing, the catalog suggests how the bookshelf itself can even be printed and assembled at home.
Sleep & ‘body biometrics’
Sleep technology is also popular today, with devices like the Withings Sleep Tracker, Apple Watch and Fitbit all able to log your sleep cycles. The catalog proposes a smart mattress that adjusts its temperature, thickness and density based on the ambient temperature and “intimate body biometrics.”
Today, smart mattresses are available from companies like Eight, Sleep Number and Winkbeds, making this catalog concept feel particularly close to reality. It’s not just the technology which seems believable, but also the expectations for what smart home consumers want in the future.
Recognizing that homes that getting smaller, the catalog offers a detachable module can be added to your home, expanding the size of the kitchen when you want to host a party — or even adding an entire temporary kitchen where there wasn’t one before. Billed by the hour, the kitchen module can be ordered pre-loaded with food for cuisine of your choice.
The idea of a module home is not actually far-fetched, dating back to at least the early 1970s. It fits the bill of the “micro environment” proposed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass. Back in 1971, Sottsass sought to counter the growing postwar demand for fashionable and unique furniture with a set of bland, functional and interchangeable boxes. Each contained a home item. The kitchen presented in the mock-up IKEA catalog is a far more attractive option, but shares the same minimalist functionality as the architect’s concept.
Returning to the present day, the catalog shows a kitchen worktop that displays cooking instructions and information about items placed on it, such as food’s weight. This is very close to smart kitchen concepts shown off this year by companies like Bosch and Grundig, where a user interface is projected onto the surface.
‘Active Clever Agents?’
The catalog also describes the kitchen being run by an “Active Clever Agent [which] provides precise, friendly, sensible instruction for measurements, volumes, directions and lively anecdotes helping you prepare a wide range of recipes from around the world.”
To us, this sounds a lot like Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant, as well as their ability to read out cooking instructions on demand. Given devices like the Google Home Hub — and near-future concepts like those displayed at the CES and IFA tech shows — this page of the catalog feels the closest to today’s world.
Stepping into the garden, the catalog mentions an autonomous drone that can monitor and water your plants and lawn. Today, drones are used to monitor crops, while consumers have automated irrigation systems. Predicting how future drone legislation could make this service tricky, the catalog notes that the service “may be unavailable in some regions. Check with local agencies to see if you live in a drone-free zone.”
Predicting the future of technology is famously tough to get right. While this catalog was only produced three years ago, the acceleration of smart home tech has made a prediction intended for 2030 feel more suited to 2020. Devices like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens made cameo appearances, along with a wearable camera reminiscent of the Google Clips from 2017.
Health & well-being
The emphasis on using technology to help with health and well-being closely resembles current trends. Selling products through a subscription service — a common theme throughout the catalog — is already seen today with digital goods like Netflix and Spotify. However, this focus is also expanding to hardware thanks to companies like Uber and Lyft.
Julian Bleecker, a design engineer who worked on the catalog, said in 2015: “In our near future, an IKEA kitchen is ‘self-subscribing’, a peculiar, eyebrow-raising neologism meant to suggest a new weird context… In which our near future selves are comfortable with smart technologies that somehow know what’s best for us.”
This prediction may have sounded like an episode of Black Mirror at the time, but today, the idea of Alexa suggesting we buy things — or offering to order medicine when we’re sick — feels more like logical progression than something to be wary of. As for what the smart home of 2030 will actually look like, we suspect it would shock us today.
This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
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