Technophile

A wonder home in a wonder town

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on November 14, 2018 Published on November 14, 2018

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic showcases an interactive experience of life ten years hence

When it comes to using technology in everyday life, the Japanese have been ahead of the world by several years. After all, the music-playing, water-spraying, bottom-warming high-tech toilets, or washlets as they call it, have been around in Japan since 1980, and the rest of the world hasn’t yet caught up.

It’s no surprise then that the first set of super intelligent homes that will radically change our lifestyles turn out to be in Japan. At Panasonic’s Wonder Life-Box, a sample connected home that the 100-year old electronics giant created a few years ago, you can see where life is heading. Panasonic believes these homes will become common in Japan between 2020 and 2030. Walk up to the gleaming white home, and check the IOT-enabled mailbox — this is actually a set of temperature-controlled smart lockers built into one wall — and you find some groceries in there. Move a little and stare at the front door, which only opens through facial recognition and you are allowed in. Even your pooch or puss can walk in with a special pet recognition programme built at their level. So no more messy pet door flaps. Inside the open plan home, you move into the kitchen area and a smiley-faced ‘Partner’ (Akari, which means glimmer in Japanese) accompanies you, bobbing along, projected through lights. Partner is a virtual voice assistant who tells you about the grocery deliveries and suggests a menu. The lockers we saw outside have an opening inside the home, lining one wall of the kitchen and our guide opens the grocery box here.

Then, we watch in utter fascination as she picks up a coffee mug and tells the tap to pour out 200 ml of water. Voila, the intelligent tap complies, pouring the exact amount and stopping automatically. She then taps the interactive kitchen counter and all sorts of controls appear on the surface. She just has to place the mug on it and the water boils to the right temperature. We then get a demo of a cake decorating session. One voice command, and various designs are reflected on top of the cake (these are through cleverly concealed lights and audio units in the ceiling). You pick on one design and then on the reflected template put the icing on the cake.

In the living room, the smart walls recognise which member of the family has entered the room and the wall design changes accordingly to reflect the person’s mood and personality. You can also talk to the interactive wall telling it to put on a show of your choice.

Upstairs, the smart mirror in the bedroom, which operates through contactless sensors, tells you your weight, your BP, your heart rate. It advises you on the diet or exercise you should be following. It also suggests clothes and accessories, as well as make-up ideas. It is a virtual trial room as with one voice command, it shows you wearing a different dress or a bag. Or flashes back your face with a different lipstick and eyeshadow shade. Men can stand in front of the mirror and imagine what they would look like with a goatee — voila, the mirror throws back an image with a beard.

Wake up in the morning and stare at the mirror and its contactless sensing gets activated and it flashes you your relaxation check score.

All this smart stuff is happening not in isolation, in this wonder home. There is a wonder town, but naturally, where as you set out and peep into store windows, the signages change to reflect your interests. Hold up your phone and you get to see the products.

Back at the wonder home, you learn that various community services of the town are integrated into the lobby area. Whether all this will happen really or not, you can’t help but be wonder-struck at this interpretation and live experience of our lives ahead.

The writer visited Japan and toured the Wonder Life Box at the invitation of Panasonic

Published on November 14, 2018
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