Home Technology : Smart Home
The Fun and Foibles of Predicting Future Home Technology
The 2012 CEDIA Expo is just weeks away, and predictions about what new and amazing technologies we’ll see at the show are starting to dominate the conversations of analysts and attendees. Will 3D and 4K continue to dominate the discussion in the display technology realm? Will wireless speaker technology finally be worth taking seriously? And will there be any true shockers on par with Lutron’s new battery powered cellular motorized shades from last year’s Expo?
When it comes to predicting future tech, even the most notable revolutions in the tech world are just evolutionary advances that happen quickly enough for us to take notice. Those Lutron cellular shades from last year’s show certainly weren’t the first time any of us had seen motorized shades; what made them such a standout is that, seemingly overnight, Lutron not only made significant advances in ease of installation, but also took the price of motorizes shades from the realm of the purely aspirational for most consumers into the domain of the entirely affordable. And it’s safe to say that not many of us saw that coming, which is exactly what made the shades such a hit.
To paraphrase the uncannily successful futurist Arthur C. Clarke, the problem with predicting the future is that if your prophecies seem at all reasonable, they’re doomed to be laughed at as ridiculously conservative within a few years, and if they stand any chance of coming true, they’ll likely seem so farfetched and absurd that no one will bother paying attention. To wit: imagine taking your time machine (which you just you know you’ll have within five years) back to CEDIA 2006 and telling attendees that the most prevalent device in multiroom audio entertainment at the end of the decade would be a cell phone.
If nothing else, though, today’s predictions make for tomorrow’s entertainment. Check out this 1957 video promo from Monsanto—then a major chemical company with an emphasis on plastics—promoting the technological wonders of the house of the future.
Some the tech that’s almost glossed over as a given—polarized plastic ceiling panels for the ultimate in light control!—seems downright futuristic even today. And yet, the geekiest of “pure fantasy” technologies in Monsanto’s House of the Future, like the intercom system, look positively quaint compared to similar modern products, like Control4’s new Door Station.
Perhaps the most chuckle-worth aspect of the entire video is the unsurprising emphasis on plastic, but when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So it’s no surprise that in Corning’s popular prophetic video from last year, the future is made entirely of glass.
It remains to be seen how much of that video will be commonplace five, ten, twenty years down the road, but pristine, un-vandalized interactive glass displays at an urban bus stop? That’s pushing the limits of fantasy.
Glasses free holographic 3D video that actually leaps off the wall and into the room, though? Seems legit.
With all that said, it’s still fun to speculate. So what do you think will be the next evolutionary revolution in home technology? With some unexpected outsider come in and shake things up the way the iPhone did? Will some unforeseen-but-simple marriage of technologies bring down the barrier of entry to integrated home automation? Or, leaving aside specifics, which home technology systems are overdue for the next great leap forward? HVAC? Appliances? Networking?
Leave your prognostications in a comment below. We promise we won’t make fun of them until at least this time next year.
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