What's in the Home of the Future?

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What's in the home of the future? One giant connected network and RFID technology everywhere.

At Microsoft's Advance '08 event last week I got a tour of its vision for how technology would impact everyday household life with a tour of its Home of the Future. (I also wrote about it for Media Morph this week.) Homes would be equipped with voice recognition and, of course, have a name. Microsoft's home went by "Grace" and, while not quite like the 1950s housewife greeting her husband with his slippers and a martini after work, when our tour guide, Microsoft Global Marketing Exec Stephen Kim, walked in and greeted Grace, it recognized his voice and, noting the time, could activate his preferred afterwork music and lighting and remind him of his schedule for the evening.

In another example of futuristic technology at work, radio-frequency-identification technology in the book "Goodnight Moon" triggered "intelligent lighting" meant to enhance the reading of the story through its ambience. Microsoft calls this RFID technology "smart tagging." We also saw an example in the kitchen, when Mr. Kim set out a particular appliance and food item and the counter, recognizing their smart tags, offered up recipes that would work with said items. Mobile technology will continue to be key: at the beginning of the tour, we saw how cell phones synched to mailboxes to alert people what kinds of letters arrived. (That means that, yes, snail mail will still exist; there was also a TV in the home, although I'm certain it was IP-enabled.) And apparently marketers typically go ga-ga over a concept of smart mirrors that lets users track when they last wore an outfit and buy clothes directly from their closets.

While only about 50% of the Home of the Future concepts will make it to market over the next decade, it's interesting to think about how all these technologies might tie together. Mr. Kim told me earlier incarnations of the home, which is updated about every 18 months or so to stay ahead of the curve, included prototypes or concepts which became or influenced today's XBox, tablet PCs and Microsoft Surface technology. In the Home's earliest days, cable TV was a hot concept.

What do you think homes will look like five to 10 years from now?
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