Home Tech Is Improving in Ways That Even the #analog4life Crowd Can Love

Photo: The Mirror

One in five US adults now uses a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Assistant, and they’ve become the gateway to outfitting entire homes with smart products. Yet, while in the past, home tech’s primary purpose was entertainment (think: flashy TVs and an impressive speaker system) the focus now is on making life less stressful.

“Whereas the majority of [my] clients are focused on ‘smart’ technology being integrated into lighting, security, and mechanical systems, more and more early adopters are looking to technology to empower wellness in other areas of their homes and lives,” says architect Veronica Schreibeis-Smith.

People are turning to home tech to get to the bottom of all their wellness woes. Can’t sleep? Just ask your mattress to figure out what’s keeping you up at night. Don’t have the energy to figure out what to eat for dinner? Let your fridge suggest meal options based on what’s inside. Can’t get to the gym? Install a mirror that doubles as a virtual fitness instructor. And slated to launch in 2019 is a trash-can-looking machine that can be fed shirts, pants, pillowcases, and towels that will fold everything in less than five minutes. (For newbies not looking to make a major investment—yet—you can also get your smart home humming for as little as $30 to $50 for an Amazon Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini.)

Don’t have the energy to figure out what to eat for dinner? Let your fridge suggest meal options based on what’s inside.

There’s a growing expectation that technology should be making home life easier, says Chris Chan, Google Home product manager. “People have enough on their plates, from family life to work life to social life, and you shouldn’t have to worry about whether you set the alarm before you left the house, or whether you turned off all the lights before going to bed,” he says.

“Our idea around smart home was partly inspired by Star Trek and the idea that you can use machine learning and AI to make life easier simply by using your voice,” says Nathan Smith, the director for Amazon Alexa Smart Home. “It took us three years to reach 4,000 Alexa-compatible devices, but that number has quintupled to 20,000 compatible devices in 2018.” What’s more, tech is this close to having its own human emotions. “The same way you can have a hunch that something feels off, Alexa can now get a hunch,” Smith says. “For example, if you say, “Alexa, good night,” and you’ve accidentally left your connected bathroom light on, Alexa will be able to recognize the light should be off and ask if you want her to turn it off.”

As to where it will go next? Schreibeis-Smith has some thoughts: In the next few years, systems within the house will respond to requests by not just providing us with information, but acting on it. “For example, if your sleep monitor identifies [that] unrestful sleep patterns are associated with bright lights before bed, the lighting could be automatically adjusted for warmer tones and less lumens to better mimic evening light and trigger the natural hormone responses of your circadian rhythm,” she says. “In the kitchen, sensors would not only track your consumption of food and automatically place it on your grocery list, but also could automatically order groceries and have them delivered to your home.”

Tech has often been called out as the source of all our collective stress (digital detox, anyone?). But with these time-saving applications, it might actually turn out to save us from, well, itself.

This is just one of the healthy-living trends we're predicting for 2019—check out the full list here!

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