Tech at Home

How Technology will Shape Life in the Home

Already, rapid advancements in technology have fundamentally changed the way most of us spend time in our homes, adding convenience into our daily routines and expanding options for entertainment beyond what was once considered possible. This rapid pace of technological advancement is sure to continue, and while it’s difficult to predict exactly how technology will change our lives at home far into the future, looking at current trends and the research and development being conducted can give a general understanding of the direction technology is taking us.

It’s worth taking a look back several decades into the past to determine which previous predictions about the homes of the future came true and which didn’t. Some concepts, such as video calling and advanced thermostats, have manifested into technologies like Apple’s Facetime and Nest’s Learning Thermostat. Other predictions turned out to be off the mark, such as the idea that homes of the future would be made out of glass or Thomas Edison’s prediction that steel would become the primary material for building furniture. Most of the predictions that came true involved how technology would impact the way we engage with information and conduct our daily routines; as such, the best predictions are the ones that look to how technology can work in these domains. For instance, Phillip’s Hue system of smart light bulbs can be programmed to automatically adjust to our schedules, and Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices allow us to interact with our personal computers by using natural language. While the rate of technological progress has produced these impressive devices, there is plenty of room for improvement, and continued investment and innovation by these companies is sure to produce even more advanced generations of the same fundamental concepts.

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One of the most promising domains of technological development can be found in the field of artificial intelligence. Machine learning systems which take advantage of neural network technology have already produced incredible results, as speech synthesis systems can sound totally indistinguishable from a genuine human voice and can even mimic the speaking styles of real individuals with great verisimilitude. This technology would not only allow for natural-sounding communication between humans and AI, but assistants could even be programmed to mimic the tone of voice of different emotions, enabling a personal assistant which always sounds happy to speak with you to create a more pleasant experience. In the future, deep learning technology could be used to make these assistants smarter, as they would be able to better parse and interpret the complex information expressed in natural speech to accomplish specific and unique tasks. For instance, in the future you may be able to ask a computer assistant to take notes, send emails, and set reminders without having to worry about how you phrase your requests and with confidence that the computer will understand you correctly. We will continue to carry these assistants with us on our phones, but they will also be integrated in the home in the form of connected smart speakers placed in different rooms.

Another field worth paying attention to involves the rising interconnectivity of our devices. Though compatibility varies across manufacturers, already consumers are able to synchronize their activity between their tablets, laptops, smartphones, and desktop consumers, and it’s even possible to wirelessly stream content from a phone to a TV. As our devices get better, their capabilities begin to overlap, causing some specialized devices to become obsolete. Tablets such as the iPad have incorporated much of the functionality of laptops, making ownership of the latter device unnecessary, and improvements in smartphone cameras have all but killed the compact camera industry.

As virtual reality headsets and computer graphics become more realistic, the allure of vacationing in a distant location will become overshadowed by the difficulties of transportation and the cost of travel and accommodations

This trend is sure to continue, and as devices become more versatile, we’ll find that our smartphones, which will have folding screens and seamless wireless compatibility with a host of input and display options, will become our primary computing devices. We will still have displays around our houses, and in fact even more of them as we add smart mirrors and wallpapers to our televisions and desktop monitors, but these displays will function not as discrete computing entities but instead will connect to our personal smartphones. As such, all of our computing needs will be handled by a single portable computing device, which will be deeply integrated with the cloud and which we will interact with in different ways by using wirelessly connected devices, such as keyboards, monitors, large tablets with styluses, our voices, and our television sets with remote controls. In this way, our computers will seem to follow us wherever we go, as sitting down in front of a monitor in a public place will grant exactly the same experience as sitting in front of a monitor at home.

As our devices become more interconnected and artificial intelligence streamlines our relationship with technology, more opportunities to fundamentally transform our lives at home will continue to open up. A new generation of young professionals will increasingly view the commute to work in the office as unnecessary and burdensome, as computing and communications technology will replicate nearly all of the functionality of the office environment. Instead, young people will opt to work from their home offices, using high-quality video calls and augmented and virtual reality systems to replicate the experience of participating in conferences and meetings. Home offices will be customized to suit the individual’s professional needs to the same degree that office buildings can provide, and though professional attire will remain an expectation, the flexibility of the home environment will ensure a more efficient collaborative experience. As a result, the boundaries between the home environment and the work environment will be blurred, and while this is sure to enable a great degree of convenience for professionals, it may increase levels of stress among the professional population, as they will be expected to be available throughout the day whenever they’re in their houses.

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Technology is also likely to transform the way we think about leisure. As virtual reality headsets and computer graphics become more realistic, the allure of vacationing in a distant location will become overshadowed by the difficulties of transportation and the cost of travel and accommodations, and the alternative of staying at home during vacation time will become more appealing. As consumer devices will be able to replicate the look and feel of visiting exotic destinations, even fictional ones, the natural urge to travel and explore different places will be satisfied by simulations of these experiences. Developers will have the freedom to craft entire vacation experiences, which will be able to be enjoyed either for a few hours at the end of the day or for days at a time, and consumers will be able to download and share these experiences digitally without having to leave home at all.

Of course, no one can be totally accurate in predicting the future of technology in the home, but by looking at the general principles by which technology has already shaped our home lives it’s easy to imagine how it will continue to do so with time. Human nature, of course, will always stay the same fundamentally, and future generations will still have the same needs of experiencing novelty, finding purpose in life and work, and interacting socially, but the ways we go about fulfilling these needs are sure to radically change.

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