Home of the future stories are fun, but rarely accurate. That’s because technologies take twists and turns, or never turn out. Low public interest, marketing mishaps or a misplaced hashtag could doom the next Betamax or HD-DVD.
GE claims its Home of the Future 2025 is a little different. “This isn’t about the Jetsons or pie-in-the-sky ideas,” says Lou Lenzi, director for GE Appliances’ Industrial Design Operation. “Home 2025 is about reality-based innovation that will be possible over the next decade.”
“We didn’t just focus on the technology, but how users will use the technology,” adds Chris Bissig, a leader in industrial design for GE. “We started by developing personas… We looked at demographic data and connected the dots to the trends that are happening, such as the dining and kitchen areas merging and more appliances connected to mobile devices.” One group at GE even targeted what would be needed as indoor plants become food sources and synthetic beehives provide pollination.
The result? GE’s Home of the Future touts innovations from those clearly emerging today, like induction cooking technologies to more radical concepts like combo washer/dryer dispensing clothes pellets and in-sink dishwasher/refrigerators.
GE has shown its Home of the Future in Lousiville, Ky.; a science center in Pennsylvania; Portland, Ore., and is sending it to New Orleans for the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) show this summer.
TecHome Builder couldn’t resist peeking into the future with GE’s technoid ambassadors and quizzing them on what cool-rule innovations in GE’s Home of the Future are actually in development.
GE is beginning to develop bits and pieces of the products, says Bissig. “Some are going into ongoing products, and some are being spun off into other projects.”
For most of us, this is called washing the dishes—in the sink. But did you know you can save water by scraping (not rinsing) dishes and running a full load in an efficient dishwasher? GE envisions being able to wash small loads in a sink that also has bacterial sensors so you know when you can stop rinsing produce.
“We’ve seen prototypes around here that are pretty developed,” says Bissig. GE says it’s also developing a combo cooking set, fridge and dishwasher—all in 72 inches. That puts an entire kitchen in a box, so to speak, for mobile units, trailers, smaller modular homes, and apartment units. GE’s new online co-creation community FirstBuild.com is participating with the New York City Economic Development Council's annual “BigApps” challenge to create a micro-kitchen that will maintain the style and functionality, but in a significantly smaller footprint than traditional kitchens.
GE also envisions produce draws below and those that turn food scraps into compost pellets. Nice!
Water Savings & Indoor Gardening
Advances in water filtration and sanitization will help keep laundry and dishwasher appliances from getting too thirsty. Graywater from the dishwasher in GE’s Home 2025 is recycled and it can be used for a sustainable growing wall, where herbs and vegetables are harvested.
This is a great idea. We’re already seeing graywater from sinks being used to flush toilets and water recycled by dishwashers. Such sensible water-saving technologies are bound to become commonplace as water conservation becomes more and more vital. TecHome Builder sees water savings as one of the top hot trends in homebuilding, and expects it to be for a long time.
Kudos to GE for taking the concept all the way to a sustainable growing wall. Now companies need to execute on this—in big ways. TecHome Builder issues the challenge.
Shown above: A garden with a synthetic beehive that releases natural smoke to calm bees when you near. We’re not sure about this one: Could sting from bees, lawsuits …
Induction and Social Cooking
Induction cooktops are nothing new. We’ve even been seeing induction countertop concepts. “That’s a fascinating topic, and there have been a lot of patents written around that. It’s coming, as more people are charging devices using induction,” says Bissig.
GE’s induction cooking vision is in a 27-inch wide design to ensure more cabinet space and with cooktop modules that can be placed anywhere on the surface. It’s combined with GE’s Advantium technology that uses conventional cooking, sensor cooking and heat from halogen bulbs to brown foods and cook them fast and evenly. And, of course, the oven is connected via your smartphone—if you still have one—so you can preheat, check the status of dinner or shut the oven off remotely.
“We believe connectivity is here to stay and adoption rate is going increase,” says John Ouseph, of GE’s Connected Home division. “By 2018, the expectation of consumers will be that appliances need to be connected.”
And yes, there’s also a social cooking component. GE says improvements to voice recognition, motion and facial recognition, and “deep-thinking technology” will create simulations of experts to help you cook the perfect meal. If not, blame the Emeril hologram. Bam!
Feeling parched? Maybe you’re dehydrated. Fill a glass of water at the hydration faucet and place your finger there to check your hydration level in our home of the future. GE says it’s not actively pursuing this potential innovation now, however. “Some technologies may be closer today than others,” Bissig says.
“There is some talk of technology that can sense hydration to the skin.”
After washing and drying your clothing, the combination laundry machine in GE's Home 2025 compresses items into pellets and stores them in the machine. The machine dispenses the items in either pellet or revived form. “We looked at how people were shipping garments and how that can apply to indoor use,” says Bissig.
Clothes pellets would be great for packing for business trips—especially if GE works out the wrinkles. (Get it?) This scribe’s clothes already get compressed into wrinkles when he travels!
GE also sees a virtual closet that allows you to choose items and even suggests matching outfits or clothing based on weather. Like I can’t do that myself?
There’s a lot of excitement in Tech Geekdom about 3D printing that can render small housewares, home decor items, dog toys, perhaps online purchases—right in your home. (But why do I have a feeling this technology will be also used for all sorts of nefarious purposes?)
GE's Home 2025 comes equipped with an under-cabinet mounted 3D printer. “We’ve had fun discussions around 3D printing food. We had a debate about whether that tech could replace food in texture and shapes,” says Bissig. For now culinary 3D printing may be limited to flavored sugar and dog treats.
Check out the graphic: The dog is waiting for its treat!
Thermal Night Stand
Here’s how GE describes this:
In GE's Home 2025, a thermoelectric nano material allows a user to activate a designated area on the nightstand using their body heat, such as from a finger, and leave a reminder. The thermoelectric nano material also recognizes the temperature difference between the surface and any object you set on it, such as a cup of coffee, and will adjust to keep your beverage warm (or cool).
That sounds great, especially if my nightstand doesn’t vibrate or beep or chime like a smartphone I must take everywhere.
The best bedside technology is something that allows you to shut off everything in your house so you—and your cool tech—can sleep in peace.
Back to the Future: 1960 Kitchen of the Future!
Arthur BecVar, GE's manager of industrial design for major appliances, and his team of designers imagined a kitchen of the future. Some of his ideas, such as an induction cooking surface and a refrigerator ice dispenser, have become a reality.