From Caves of the dark jungle to Sky scrapers of the concrete jungle man has come a long way in the dwelling cult. At every stage of development man tries to accommodate the maximum possible features until he reaches a point where he cannot do without any new invention. Caves became huts, huts became houses and houses became palaces and big buildings. Even today, for a normal residential house, man’s basic thinking has not varied much in terms of home requirements – a place to live, a place to cook or store his food, a place to keep all his belongings and a comfortable place to rest. These basic necessities will in fact remain the same until human civilization exists. Millions of years have passed and man has been using all naturally available elements to create artificial things for his material needs, especially in the past millennium with rapid development in science and technology he has found ways to produce things at low cost and sell it at affordable prices to his human counterparts. The result was increased consumption of non-renewable energy sources causing a rise in greenhouse gas and hindering the carbon-silicon cycle. The greenhouse gas which has kept the world warm all these years will elevate the temperature to much hotter levels resulting in abrupt climatic changes and challenge the very existence of human. With all due considerations to preserve our environment, the house of the future will also try to accommodate various aspects of changing human lifestyle. Necessity and desire will lead to infusion of technological advances in an ordinary home.
At the dawn of 21st century, a technologically advancing world is challenged with problems to tackle from Mother Nature. The century will see an evolution of gadgets which are environment friendly. Oil driven machineries will be replaced by machines powered by Electricity or hydrogen. Electricity will only be produced from sources like Nuclear, Wind, Solar and water. The building materials will be far more advanced with better acoustics, sound proofing and well insulated which will bring down energy leakage. The property of constant temperature of Earth’s crust will be used to maintain the temperature of the home instead of using power consuming, polluting and costlier Air condition equipments/heaters. Pre-manufactured concrete along with Robotic machines will help builders complete the building work in a matter of few weeks. How will our home look like in the future?
One of the challenges of human settlement in the future will be space. With an increasing population, Engineering will focus on packing more number of things for the demanding lifestyle in a square foot of area. LCD and plasma TVs are less space consuming that will soon attain economies of scale and CRT Televisions will become a history. As LCD TVs become common, another interesting arrangement of a future living room could be a Holographic Projection TVs (HPTV), which can project the television broadcast from a small device from the ceiling. The arrangement can be such that the center of the living room has this HPTV which will be surrounded by furniture. Audiences seated at any corner in the room will have a 3D visual of the broadcast at the centre of the living room. Programmes and footages in the old 2D technology will be projected flat and one should still be able to watch it from any corner. The next advancement that can be thought of is the acoustics and the sound system. I recently saw a program on the Discovery science channel where a new form of speakers was demonstrated. It was a round metal disc of the size of a palm, couple of inches thick, which can be attached to the wall. The reverberations created by the device cause the solid surface of the wall to turn into a speaker. This will be an amazing technology in the future. A sound system that can produce pristine music that doesn’t need any space consideration and wiring requirements combined with a HPTV will be the height of audio visual experience in the future.
With a busy lifestyle centered on business lunches, fast foods, ready to eat, frozen pre-cooked stuff, our kitchen is more likely to attain even more sophistication to handle this lifestyle. Now unless the person has a passion and time to cook it is more likely that the food that we would eat will be one of the mentioned above. But besides all these stuff I would like to imagine a futuristic kitchen that is fully automated, operated by robots. Not the humanoid kind of Robots but just a normal industrial type robot arm (Actuator) with specific degrees of freedom. The gas stove will be surrounded by actuators which will do the job of cooking the food. The ingredients will be served to the arms from the pantry via a conveyer belt or a pipeline by another set of actuators. The only work that we will need to do is to program the recipe using a GUI application in our home computer, send it to robotic system and store the ingredients in proper places which the robotic systems can identify. This kind of arrangement will look more like the Weasley’s house in the Harry potter story. The Automatic kitchen system will also keep track of the stock of ingredients available in the pantry and when the levels diminish to threshold defined by us, it would simply place a buy order on the internet store for all the things that are needed. If technology can grow to provide us such a miniature robotic kitchen system at affordable prices, I would love to write the software which converts the recipes from the GUI application to instructions for the actuators and along with the whole inventory control system. Perhaps, a simpler and less futuristic arrangement without the robots can be thought off with a programmable microwave oven. You can put all your ingredients to cook in a vessel and place it inside the microwave; put a timer to start cooking at 7 PM for dinner, while you leave for work in the morning. The microwave will act as a refrigerator in the day time to preserve it until 7 PM and after that it will start increasing its temperature and cook the food and keep it warm till you eat it. A Robotic kitchen is more exciting and lot of work for developers than a simpler timer based microwave kitchen.
Another important development in the coming years for a future home will be communication. Man has come a long way in this from the days of arrows and pigeons to cell phones of these days. Wireless communication will be the trend and the business in wired phones will soon attain saturation and worst could be completely replaced by wireless technology in the far future. Integration of video conferencing in a cell phone will also be a noteworthy development that we can see in this area soon. But apart from communicating to other people in the most advanced way that can be thought off, is there any other use for this? Cell phone can be as well used as a remote control for your devices in your home. You will no longer need to be physically present at home to actually set off something. You can simply use your phone, access your communication menu, choose the device you want to speak to and just send commands either by typing it or by speaking words on to it. Like I said in my earlier article (Storage Evolution), this information can be transmitted to a centralized system which will parse and convert the commands to actions and send it to that relevant device. For example, you can call your vacuum cleaner and ask him (I chose to personify a non living thing for its sensory ability to listen to human’s voice and recognize the same) to clean the kitchen and he would do the same like a faithful servant. This can work for any device present in the house that can be programmed to be interfaced with the centralized communication device. The power of control will be in the palm of your hands wherever you go.
With all such advances, humans should only use them in situations of necessity and to improve the lifestyle with possibilities rather than as a daily affair. This can reduce the unnecessary evolutionary impacts on having to deviate too much from nature. Nevertheless, a new gadget at home will always make it interesting and let us hope that we are not too far in getting an advanced system setup in our future home during our lifetime.