Today I had the privilege of visiting the Microsoft HQ at Redwood where were were taken on a tour of the Microsoft Home of the Future. The Microsoft Home is housed within Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Center. Although it’s not a stand-alone house, the Microsoft Home simulates a domestic environment including a front door, entry/foyer, kitchen, family room, dining room, entertainment room and bedroom.
Everything in the home of the future runs on a central network, with devices such as cellphones, refrigerator, lights and the mailbox all connected as nodes on that network.
Identity and personalisation play a big part in how the home operates – with family members recognised by their mobile devices, and RFID (radio-frequency-identification) technology embedded in virtually everything in the home. So, if family members are working in the kitchen, for instance, and pull out particular appliances and ingredients, the “smart kitchen” will know what they are looking to make, and the countertop will display the recipe.
The home is set up not to illustrate how things will be, but how they could be – and is deliberatley established to provoke discussion around things such as privacy, and participation in the way in which things might develop. It was a useful reminder that the technology exisits to allow us to do pretty much everything we can imagine, but there needs to be another layer of thought and engagement around the social, ethical and ‘human’ dimensions of what will be affected before we’ll see widespread adoption of what we saw today.
It was fascinating to be on the tour with a group of educators, where the focus of the discussion was turned often to how many of the features we observed might be incorporated into a school environment – monitoring student location, setting mood through lighting and temperature controls, and creating interactive wall space in learning areas for instance.
Certainly lots of food for thought, and a great end to my stay in Seattle. Off to pack now for the trip home tomorrow 🙂