Apartment of the Future…Today!

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By Megan Swaine - January 3rd 2007.

Recently, Wired.com writer Momus and his blog readers put together an amusing tongue-in-cheek look at a new year in Technology with his article "Touring the Home of the Future."

But how about touring the apartment of the now? I've been mulling this over for a while, and considering this age of digital entertainment that we live in, we can have most of that entertainment- for free (or cheap) and completely contained on a hard drive.

Of course, as a person that cherishes analog media, I would never get rid of my cassette tapes or battered paperbacks (or unique hard-covers). But that has a lot to do with how I was raised, and my own personal experiences.

If I were more bent on saving space (and really, I should be, since I’m moving in the next month) then I would opt to have all of my media paperless, plastic-less, and all contained on a single storage medium. No more bookshelves, CD stands, or DVD shelves.

Currently, with Flash memory at its finest, you can fit about 10 gigabytes into something smaller than the size of a deck of cards. Movies and videos are watchable even at a smallish resolution (YouTube has proven that). You can store a whole album's worth of songs in about 50 megabytes, and the average Microsoft Reader version of a novel takes up about half a megabyte (never mind how mind-boggling small plain-text would be).

So let's speculate that I don't go too crazy, and I just get a couple of 500 Gigabyte external hard drives to store things on. I just recently signed up to iTunes, so I can eliminate all physical versions of future cd purchases. If I lived in the US, I could make use of a service like Movielink to buy or rent movies online, and just download them (legally). If I have more obscure tastes, there is always Google Video, YouTube, and public domain content, which totally free. There are many, many podcasts and streaming radio stations out there to listen to as well, which are usually free. This means that the stereo I have gathering dust in the corner can go, since I in theory, don’t need a radio anymore.

For books, there are often eBook versions of popular titles available, and many, MANY classics are legally available for free on the internet from sites like freebooks5000.com. I could spend a couple of lifetimes reading all of the best works of literature, without even filling out a library card.

There are also subscriptions to streaming content of popular video and audio through sites like SaltWaterChimp or Streamwired.com. For about $5 to $10 a month, I can watch as many hours as I can plow through of my favourite TV shows, all on Winamp, without taking up a single bit of hard drive space.

I've got my pda and cellphone for on-the-go computing, and note-taking, and who needs paper when I've got windows notepad? I can ditch that pesky landline phone too, and just have myself a headset, and a Vonage subscription (or just use Skype or iCall). There are many online and cd-rom versions of classic board games, and if I scan all pertinent correspondence, I can get rid of that pesky pile of old mail in the corner.

So my apartment 'of the future' could feasibly just (aside from appliances), contain one or two large hard drives (which would take up significantly less space than my bookcases), my desk, my PC, a really kickass monitor and some nice speakers.

Touring the Home of the Future

By "Momus" - January 2nd 2007.

It all seems to happen backward; haphazardly, things get invented, take their place in the product ranges of manufacturers, get advertised, create a buzz, go on sale, reach a retail point near us and capture our imagination -- or don't.

If they do, we capitulate and buy. One day, looking back, we can't believe how we ever lived without, you know, a Bluetooth foam toaster. Before it arrived, there was a Bluetooth-foam toaster-shaped hole in our lives a mile wide! Or maybe, you know, not.

But what if it all worked the other way around? What if we started from what we do know -- the things we actually need and want, our whims and desires -- then asked inventors, designers and corporations to come up with the goods?

This week I sat down with the readers of my blog Click Opera and tried to extrapolate some weird and wonderful devices from our as-yet-unfulfilled needs and desires. I've arranged the results -- a list of dream machines, collectively conjured -- in the shape of the rooms of a house. Think of it as a sequence of mocked-up interiors in one of those "home of the future" shows.

So here we go. I'll be your guide as we pass from room to room. What I'll be pointing out are the things we want, the things we need. Here in our home of the future they already exist, and work. Let's start in the bedroom.

The Bedroom

OK, we all like to snoop around. Yes, sex does go on here. We can tell that by the vibro-contraceptive futon. It's a totally safe contraceptive method that puts barrier and pill methods to shame. To work, it just needs a bit of information about your body chemistry. It gets that from the toilet, as we'll see. Then it vibrates you at one of several very precise frequencies. Simple as that. Feels good, too.

On the wall by the mirror is the nanotech tattoo programmer. It allows you to change your tattoo every day. You'll feel your skin crawl as tiny agents drag the subcutaneous ink into new shapes.

Let's open the closet. Those are musical shoes; they generate music as you walk. Above, there's a rail of intelligent clothes. These garments can sense your mood and change their color accordingly. They can also capture heat energy at the warm parts of your body and radiate it up to the cooler extremities -- your head, hands and feet. That's welcome on a cold day, even with today's mild winters.

Piezofabrics turn your body into a low-voltage electric generator. You'll appreciate this when we see some of the gadgets in the rest of the house. Some you won't see, because they're already inside you. They need power too.

The Bathroom

Sick of fussing to get your bathwater exactly the same temperature every morning? Well, these faucets have a memory. They remember just how you like the water.

See that toilet with all the buttons and levers and displays? It has full body-fluid analysis capability built in. It can tell whether you're pregnant and whether someone in the house is about to have a period and needs to be treated with special consideration.

The Kitchen

This might be a good time to mention that everything in this house is RFID tagged. You can never lose anything -- just Google it on the "internet of things." You can display the results on the fridge door.

There are lots of interesting drinks here: bottled water impregnated with vitamin-rich algae, sustainable peyote, new kinds of tea and powerful alcoholic beverages containing their own patented hangover cures. Even the ice cream changes color when you lick it.

As we leave, mind you don't trip over the intelligent cat feeder. It's the feeder that's intelligent, not the cat. She's sleeping right in the doorway.

The Living Room

Yes, there are still books. But did you know that your musical shoes can react to the emotions created by what you're reading and supply the appropriate music? Meanwhile, smart lamps pick out a suitable color to cast.

Reach out and touch the walls here. They're entirely covered by plasma screens. That means you can change the scenery as easily as you change your computer's desktop picture. In fact, the walls and ceiling are your computer's desktop.

Where's the computer? It's inside your head. It's been implanted. So, unfortunately, has a program called Nag-O-Matic, a system combining a PDA scheduler and GPS locator. It knows where you should be, and if you're not there it'll deliver a little electric shock to remind you. When you're on schedule it'll give you a sort of nonsexual orgasm as a reward.

So what do you want to look at, up on these walls? Xoogle Earth is the universal snoopcam; it can zoom right down into people's houses and see through their clothes. If that's a bit mutually intrusive (the price you pay is that people can zoom in on you, too), there's speech-to-text software somewhere here that actually works.

That last bit is a joke of course. Even in the home of the future, let's try to keep a grasp on reality, shall we?

Apartment Buildings of the Future

By Charles Moffat - January 7th 2007.

In the future will we still be building these boring gray apartment buildings with "bare minimum designs" and bare minimum budgets too?

Or will we finally start building "Mega Living Complexes"...?

I have a theory that in the future almost everyone will live in (or want to live in) a MLC. What's a MLC? Its an apartment building/shopping mall/school/day-care centre/hospital/movie theatre/factory/office building. In short, its everything under one roof.

The idea is basic: To create a place where everyone gets to work, school and home simply by taking a couple elevators and escalators. Everything is connected and 90% of it is covered by glass roof tiles.

The Advantages of the MLC:

  • No transportation bill to get to work.
  • Saves on heating bills.
  • You don't need your coat when you go out.
  • The movie theatre is just down the elevator, right beside the grocery store.
  • You can go shopping whenever you want (and delivery is easy too).
  • Wide avenues of walking to accomodate lots of people.
  • Plenty of vegetation, indoor plants, water fountains and top notch urban-landscape design.
  • No need to buy an umbrella.
  • No car accidents.
  • Better security.
  • Fosters a community.
  • Wastes less land space on roads, parking lots, etc.
  • Etc.


  • You will have to rent a car or take a taxi if you want to visit someplace else.
  • You may decide to never leave the MLC.
  • Your kids won't know what its like outside.
  • The MLC would have to be designed with a great deal of thought so that noisy factories aren't right beside the movie theatre.
  • To live in the MLC you first have to work in the MLC, thus the first people to build such places will likely be major corporations like Microsoft.

    Fortunately some architects have started to think ahead. On the right is the Urban Cactus, a housing project in Rotterdam, EU.

    The building takes advantage of new building methods which allows more curvatures in buildings and makes for large sunny balconies on all sides of the building.

    The other design factor is the sheer amount of plants on the balconies. It gives the building a much more green look.

    Its simply quite beautiful to look at.