When you watch a film or TV show from the 60s or 70s that was based in the future, it often meant the year 2010 or roundabout. So now that we are officially living in ‘the future’ how does it stack up again the sci-fi visions of times past and where will it all take us a few years from now?
Whilst hovercrafts and teleportation devices might not be in circulation just yet, our homes may have begun to resemble something more akin to an episode of The Jetsons, and here are five futuristic home improvements to prove it:
Motion activated appliances
Another technology which is available today but is basically in its infancy in regard to mass market applications is the area of gesture-based control. We are used to smartphones having accelerometer devices which react to the way we move them but the next step is really like a scene from Minority Report where, by simply moving our hands and making facial gestures, we can activate different electrical systems.
This approach can range from turning lights on and off without the use of a switch through to carrying out complicated actions without the help of a remote control.
One of the very simple little tricks that used to appear regularly in ‘houses of the future’ was the idea of boiling water available on demand. The technology for this has now been streamlined so that it is an easy to fit, simple unit that can be applied to most modern kitchens.
Previously the cost of keeping water at boiling point would have been prohibitive but today’s units mean you don’t have to be a member of the wealthy elite to save yourself four minutes waiting for the kettle to boil every time you want a cup of tea.
Smart windows are a real taste of a future. Although almost all of us are accustomed to the benefits of good quality double glazing and well fitted window units, so called ‘switchable windows’ could be the next generation.
There are a range of different glass materials including electrochromic, suspended particle and liquid crystal devices which can change the light transmission properties when an electric charge is applied to them. This means the glass changes from transparent to opaque, either partially blocking light or darkening the window completely for total privacy.
The ‘interconnectedness’ of everything is already marching on at an unstoppable rate and it could have implications we don’t yet imagine. For instance, the recent adoption of the new standard for IP addresses means that more appliances will have their own unique internet connection. A recent exhibition in Scandinavia featured a large fridge built into the house so that the back of it also opened to the outside.
This means the fridge of the future could place an online order when it runs short of supplies and deliveries could be made straight into the fridge from outside, without you even having to lift a finger, let alone pick items from a supermarket shelf!
Perhaps the most drastic futuristic home improvement we could see is actually in the design of dwellings themselves, with hobbit-like ‘eco houses’ which are partially built into hillsides or underground becoming more common. The advantages of using the contours of the land to achieve higher insulation levels and lower carbon footprints mean the very shape of the traditional terraced house could soon become a thing of the past.