Your New Lifestyle/Living in Technology; Your Bionic Future; Scientific American Presents; by Joseph; 4 Page(s)
FANCY A HOME in which the refrigerator knows you're out of eggs and orders them for you from the grocery store? Imagine the television scouring the ether for the types of programs you like and dutifully recording them for you to watch at your leisure. How about a thermostat that takes running stock of the local weather forecasts and adjusts itself in preparation for whatever is coming and a sprinkler system that kicks in whenever necessary to keep your lawn looking like the third green at Augusta National?
Chances are this is not the first time you've read predictions of domestic wonders along these lines. Ever since the 1939 World's Fair, if not earlier, futurists have been telling us that technology will soon eliminate household drudgery. A technology called X-10, which controls home electronic devices by sending command messages in the form of signal bursts across the electrical wiring, has been on the market since 1979. Even the term "Smart House" is a long-standing trademark. But despite improvements in the technology, whole-house control, as it is sometimes known, has largely remained the domain of small, private companies. These generally cater to either the technically inclined hobbyist or to the wealthy, who can afford to hire experts to figure out how to use the typically baffling products now available.