At CES last week, Corning led with a glass-forward vision that was picked up by companies like Panasonic and Samsung showcasing a number of active displays placed creatively around their home focused booths. They were pretty amazing and promised a future where you could manage all aspects of your home from a central console. In all cases, however, these were overlays. In other words, they didn’t rethink the design of the room, they just added a display. That’s common when it comes to placing a new technology in a space. For instance, when TVs first came out, folks placed them where they had previously placed radios. Over time this changed to mounting them where a viewable device would make more sense (you didn’t need a direct line of sight to the radio) and this included wall mounting and home theaters.
I think we may need to rethink how to redesign our home once we get how we might use these new home control hubs.
Let me explain.
Kitchen And The Samsung Display Refrigerator
Samsung has been trying to get us to buy refrigerators with displays for some time. They first came out with refrigerators with PCs in them which didn’t sell well. Then they came out with refrigerators with tablets in them and they didn’t seem to do much better. Their latest iteration is far more impressive to look at, with a huge screen and really attractive lines, but the issue is likely where we place the refrigerator.
If you look at a typical kitchen, chances are the refrigerator wasn’t placed in an ideal location for it to be the entertainment or display center of the kitchen. This is because it is designed to fit in a work flow that has you occasionally open it to get ingredients you need to prepare. There was no need or desire to have it placed so you could read a recipe, watch a TV show, or even get good stereo sound from it. Yet if it is going to be the place where you put the kitchen’s display all of that now needs to be taken into consideration and the placement should be different.
Now in Samsung’s defense, for someone entering the kitchen the refrigerator is likely one of the first things they see. If you want it to impress, then the Samsung refrigerator will certainly do that, it is stunning, but if you want the display to be used then we likely need to rethink not only where we place the refrigerator, but how we might allow the system to get upgraded in place so it doesn’t prematurely become obsolete. We might also want the display to be adjustable so it is facing wherever we are without having to move the entire refrigerator.
In addition we might want to consider a voice or gesture based interface because touching the screen while cooking or eating is likely going to require a cleaning we’d like to avoid. Oh, and sadly, I actually want this thing just because it looks so cool. (We currently have one of their new 4 door refrigerators).
I’m not convinced the kitchen is the ideal place to put a home control system largely because we often spend more time in other parts of the house and when we are in the kitchen we tend to be focused on food. Trying to change settings while my wife is trying to cook a meal could result in some nasty accidents and otherwise avoidable harsh words particularly if she was trying to follow a recipe on the same display.
Panasonic showcased a transparent display that could be more flexibly mounted on a table, wall, or even where you’d normally have a plain window. It could still be placed impressively but be away from areas, like the kitchen, where it might become a problem.
I’m thinking bedroom, home office, or living room table or wall. Assuming you include security cameras you want it someplace you can quickly see and interact with it and in the case of a burglary or fire get the information you need to act quickly.
You might end up with several places around the home with different sized displays focused on different things depending where they are.
Wrapping Up: Welcome To The Glass Age
Ironically a few years ago Corning did two videos, a Day Made of Glass and then a sequel where they explored this concept more fully. In it you see a variety of displays and smart windows that allow the users to manage and improve their lives while creating an impressive showcase for visitors. Going from control to entertainment, touch to voice command, and from play to work you can quickly see how this Glass future could make our future world kind of amazing.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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