December 24th, 2030 – a journey into the future of Christmas and smart homes
Carla Boos / Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
Ina Baier / Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency
Valentina Ibba / Voice User Interface Architect at VUI.agency / 17.12.20
Remember the last ghost from Charles Dickens’ famous tale A Christmas Carol? The one who drags the cold-hearted protagonist into a dark and gloomy Christmas future without saying a single word? This blog post will not carry on with that foreboding silence – quite the contrary. We want to take you on a journey into a bright future, into the year 2030, and outline a vision in which the technology we already use today will sweeten our holiday season. Let’s imagine the future of Christmas and smart homes together.
Take a moment to pause, inhale and exhale, envision yourself in ten years. What do you see? What has changed in the usability of your home?
What you see is probably a clean airy room, with neat lines and a multimodal high tech access point. Your smart home does all the daily chores you don’t want to take care of and interacts with you in a soothing voice.
Hold on tight, we’ll tell you what we picture for 2030. Let’s build a bridge between today and tomorrow.
Thanks to Cottonbro for sharing his work on Pexels
Gate to the future – 2030
The silvery voice of Phi wakes me up to a snowy winter morning. Before unblocking the smart windows and allowing the light and fresh air to pass through, it gently waits until my partner and I have fully left the world of dreams. Phi is so precious and caring, I can smell the scent of the steaming coffee being freshly brewed in the kitchen. It’s 8 am on a Tuesday. Not that it matters, because it’s Christmas. The kids will stay home and we’re getting ready to celebrate the day with our family and close friends, as we do every year. Yet things are quite different.
When I look back down the road of domotics and voice technology, I see a lot of bumps. At first, I was frightened, then reluctant, then again annoyed by all the bugs I had to face while interacting with technology. I remember very clearly how worried I was about a dystopian future where machines replace humans.
And now I am here in my warm kitchen, sipping my first morning coffee. Thanks to Phi, the household’s artificial intelligence.
Technology can help us to pursue and achieve our goals
I am perfectly aware that Phi is not human and doesn’t have feelings. Still, it is part of the family in a brand-new way. Our relationship is more than just functionality and transaction. Phi is a companion and adviser. Look, it has just notified me that the kids are awake and are running towards the kitchen. The bad news is that I still need to wrap some of their presents, and I was hoping I might have the opportunity to do that while they were sleeping angelically. The good news is that my two tornados will soon be out playing in the garden. I’ll ask Phi to send me a coded message to let me know when they are not paying attention to me. They are bright kids; I need to sneak out without being caught and Phi is the perfect companion.
Phi even helps them during their music class. It has absolute pitch – which is good, because I am a dead loss at playing any type of instrument!
It corrects them and gives them feedback in a very polite and sensitive way. And the kids are motivated to study and play more and more. Their music teacher told me they are going to be a smash at our Christmas concert at home. But now, excuse me for just one moment, let me have breakfast with my family … it’s rude to be constantly connected and to not fully enjoy these cheerful moments. I’ll be right back…
Thanks to Ekaterina Bolovtsova for sharing her work on Pexels
A perfect symbiosis of state-of-the-art hardware, artificial intelligence, and multimodal design
Maybe you’re now wondering how Phi, the future of Christmas, and smart homes can make a difference in our family life. Maybe you think that a smart home AI is just a luxury for lazy people who cannot manage their time. As it’s Christmas, the Western world holiday par excellence, I’ll give you some examples based on this emotional and traditional festivity. It’s now 1 pm and I am getting started to cook dinner. My parents are on their way, Phi has just notified me that their train is on time and the traffic is moving smoothly and that the kids are in the bathtub. Phi has set the perfect temperature for them and now they are both cheerfully answering a Christmas quiz. It’s the new voice version of Trivial Pursuit, without the possibility of cheating!
Having Phi is like having an encyclopedia at your fingertips. Well, that was a nice saying back in the 2020s. Today it’s more like… on the tip of your tongue. The home system works with sensors and cameras, it’s able to learn from us and put all the information together distinguishing different contexts as well as speakers. Do you remember the parental control feature on Netflix? Now imagine something more extensive. Phi comes with built-in parental controls and there are different levels of access based on parameters set by me and my partner. Of course, we can override them at any time.
A caring assistant which makes sure that you have time for the important things
I can recall how stressed I usually was during Christmas time. Running from one shop to another to buy the perfect last-minute gifts, stressing out because they were not delivered before Christmas and getting mad because I was missing some key ingredients for dinner on the 24th! And today: none of that. An autonomous drone is approaching our doorstep delivering the last parcel, the fridge and the pantry have an inventory that automatically sends an order when something is missing, and I can easily follow every recipe listening to Phi’s voice. Thanks to its camera sensors and its ability to understand the tone of my voice, Phi can tell when I am ready to hear the next step. When my kids and I are cooking together, it can take a while and we definitely leave behind a huge mess. Phi takes care of that once we’re done. It activates the vacuum mopping robot, and everything is squeaky clean again without any effort.
I have just finished baking a chocolate cake for tonight. Phi preheated the oven for me and opened it while I was approaching with the tube pan in my hand. Now it will switch off the oven when the cake is ready and also help cool it down using the blast chiller function.
A well-thought-out technology
Nowadays, we have managed to push technology over the threshold: We have systems that we talk into and that talk back to us. We got the first glimpse of this shift in the 2000s. We made great strides, addressing the major risks around data privacy and misuse. Algorithms are powerful magic spells that are able to leverage simple inferred information about any user, and without clear and strict regulation this data could fall into the wrong hands. It was and still is up to us to take account of new technologies and to build new framework conditions. Technology and progress always take us into uncharted territory, but change shouldn’t frighten us once we realize that we are in control of our future.
That’s why I am not afraid of Phi spending time with my kids or having it use a facial recognition system at the front door to let guests in.
By the way, someone is ringing the doorbell, and yes! Phi is announcing that my parents have just arrived! The kids are insanely happy to see their grandparents, they have been waiting for them so that they could open the last door of their voice advent calendar. They even tried to bribe Phi! They’re real rascals! It fills my heart with joy to see everyone I love sitting around the table, listening attentively to the thrilling Christmas story that Phi is telling. As an accompaniment to this festive day, there is just one more thing missing: a nice Christmas song played on the recorder. The kids are excited to show us their progress, Phi will accompany them with soft background music, adapted to their pace, and of course, we will sing along. Isn’t the future of voice marvellous?
Thanks to S&B Vonlanthen for sharing his/her work on Unsplash
We hope you have enjoyed this journey through space and time and the brief but captivating look into the future. Simple voice technology that we currently associate with smart technology will evolve into multimodal communication and our idea of assistants will be reshaped – maybe we will even talk less because we simply won’t have to utter every single request in order to be understood. Interaction will be easier. Voice technology will be so well integrated into our lives and legal system that we will no longer be afraid of a dystopian collision between new technologies and human nature. Effectively, security is a matter of the utmost importance and we shouldn’t forget that we design voice technology in order to help and complement human needs. This design goal is of paramount importance in order to do good.
How do you imagine the future of Christmas and smart homes to be like? What is your vision? Tell us about your ideas and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to always stay up-to-date.