Living the future - now

SHARKS in the swimming pool, a refrigerator which tells you what to eat and housework sorted at the touch of a button. It sounds out of this world, but will be coming soon to a home near you.

SHARKS in the swimming pool, a refrigerator which tells you what to eat and housework sorted at the touch of a button. It sounds out of this world, but will be coming soon to a home near you.

Technology has already transformed the way we work and communicate and now it’s set to change the way we live, with innovative labour-saving kit becoming standard in luxury new homes.

Already the wealthy can enjoy touch-button control over all aspects of the home, from lighting, music, heating and appliances through to security.

The cost may currently put it beyond the reach of most of us, but the experts reckon that in years to come such hi-tech devices will become as familiar as power showers, electric garage doors and underfloor heating, which were virtually unheard of 25 years ago.

Research shows our desire for gadgets and appliances has become insatiable. Mintel predicts a rise in sales of home technology kit from £49 billion in 2008 to £60 billion by 2014. “People are constantly surprised at how fast technology is moving and what can now be achieved,” says Matt Wayne, consultant designer at Finite Solutions, which has offices in Leeds and London.

“Nowadays, it’s perfectly possible to completely control your home environment remotely from wherever you are in the world by touching a button on your smartphone.

“People want homes which automatically cater for their every need. So a client may want to return home to find the lights dimmed, a meal cooking, bath running and favourite music playing as soon as he steps inside his front door.

“All those functions can be a single ‘mode’ on his system which he activates by pressing a button on his smartphone while he’s travelling back.”

Another glimpse into the not-so-distant future was recently provided by DuPont Corian whose spectacular space-age home, inspired by last year’s science fiction film Tron: Legacy, was exhibited at the Milan Furniture Fair.

Bob Darke, electrical retailer, predicts that energy-saving eco-technology will expand fastest, but that home entertainment developments will capture the most attention. “In Japan there are already ‘living walls’ which transform into television screens, and where you can can view your PC, store information and read books. Those will eventually arrive here,” he says.

But there’s no need to wait for this revolution in living - check out a range of innovations which could transform your home now.

Look-ahead living

Homes of the future will become minimalist spaces where we have the freedom to alternate between reality and fantasy, or achieve a blend of the two, according to futurologist Ian Pearson at Futurizon.

“Within a few years there’ll be video visors which we wear to allow us to see normally and simultaneously work with augmented reality, drawing on techniques used for 3D and the computer-generated images used for games,” he says.

“We’ll be able to instantly ‘create’ and visualise changes to rooms by accessing, among other things, phone apps, and view from our windows whatever landscape we desire.”

High-tech kit: A robot vacuum makes light work of cleaning: Samsung’s Navibot Silencio has a camera which takes pictures of the ceiling to map its cleaning path, and sensors prevent it colliding with furniture or falling down stairs. It can be programmed to clean while you’re out.

Cutting-edge kit

Technology is already having a huge effect on kitchens. “Soon all food and wine will be bar-coded so that people will easily be able to check exactly how fresh ingredients are, which wines to have with certain foods and exactly how long to keep certain vintages,” predicts Karen Howes, interior design specialist.

“You’ll scan your cookery library and, at the touch of a keyboard, pull up your favourite recipe which will display on a screen in the kitchen, along with a demonstration by a ‘virtual’ celebrity chef.”

And that reality could come sooner than we think. For example, next year LG Electronics is expected to launch an ‘intelligent wi-fi enabled’ fridge’. The smart fridge’s LCD panel can be read at home or remotely. It reveals food contents, identifies food expiry dates and makes recipe suggestions.

Tapping the potential

Bathrooms are being turned into high-tech spas and entertainment zones, according to Cheryl Gurner, international creative director at Bathrooms International.

“Eventually sensors will detect who is in the bathroom and a tailored automatic programme of water, temperature and lighting will activate.

“Televisions in bathrooms are becoming more common. Next, digital technology will allow images to be projected on to the ceiling or walls so that you’re surrounded by a relaxing setting of your choice or can simply lie back and watch movies.