The Connected Home and Car: Where Are They?

So now we’re one-quarter of the way into 2015, THE FUTURE that was promised to us back in the 60’s and 70’s, and even somewhat in the 80’s, thanks to shows like The Jetson’s and movies like Back to The Future. And yet, we still don’t have robots in the home — I’m not going to count the Roomba, as that’s more of an annoying noise-maker that attempts to clean your floors, as do most all the other “robot” vacuums. I know, I worked for a robot company.

If that’s the promise of home robotics, then the future ain’t so bright.

The good thing is there’s now a bunch of robotics companies popping up, and even a robotics accelerator to help launch robot products and more robot companies — though Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking aren’t too thrilled about it (something about robot overlords and smart machines taking over the world). Personally, I’d love a robot in my home that picks up stuff, reads me my email, is a security system, I can have conversations with, and can help me fix my car. Not one that looks human (I think that’s a very bad idea), but in fact looks like a machine – like R2D2 or Wall-E, or something else that’s friendly and easy to accept. Something like we used to see in movies and TV. We’ve been conditioned over time to accept that form of autonomous machine.

There’s still no flying cars. Okay, there’s the Terrafugia, and a host of other cars that turn into planes, which is to me at least, a non-starter.

But let’s talk about the connected home and car. There’s been more talk recently about autonomous cars, and Google as well as some car makers, such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi, are making some good strides. Even Apple supposedly is getting in on the game, though I doubt it.

Cars that drive you to work and home, so there’s less accidents, less traffic jams, less human interaction and mistakes. The Google car is completely hands-free, while the MB and Audi allows the passenger to drive or go hands-free. To be honest, we should have had this technology in our hands, and garages, years ago. Moore’s Law is definitely not applying to this area.

There was a recent article on CNN that talked about the next five future technologies, and it featured the number one thing being connected cars (so they talk to each other over the cloud), as well as the connected home . In this case, it was AT&T along with Audi making the pitch, and Glenn Lurie, CEO of AT&T connecting the dots. I found this interesting:

“It’s about vehicles talking to vehicles and vehicles talking to infrastructure. It’s about moving closer to self-driving vehicles,” said Lurie. “It’s about this working with your home, it’s about inanimate objects taking care of you versus you taking care of them. 

“[You tell your vehicle], when I’m 20 yards from the house, I want my garage door to open, I want my doors to unlock, I want my security system to go off, I want my thermostats to be turned up. It’s about making people’s lives better.”

Interestingly, while I was working for the robot company, they had this cool thing they called Home Animator. Basically, it’s a box with their “brain”  that connects to smart devices in your home, so everything becomes gesture-based, and over time, the system learns your patterns and behaviors. So, essentially, it’s an attempt to make our lives better, to save us time, to make technology and things a little less stressful.

Sit down with a book in your favorite chair, and a reading lamp automatically turns on when you open the book — things that happen when we do something. They called it “Enchanted Objects”.

My thought was months before seeing this article was why can’t they put that into a car, any car, either as an OEM thing when you buy a car, or even an aftermarket device? I was the champion for the connected home and car – but it was more than what Mr. Lurie had posited. It was a Day in the Life study I wrote (being a UX’er and filmmaker this is something l love to do) about how the home and the cars of the homeowner worked together to make the user’s morning routine less stressful, as well as when they get home from their day at work.

The home would get things ready as the people would get ready to go, and then let the car know the owner was on his way out. The car in turn would start up, warm up the interior (in the case of a cold morning), adjust anything that needed adjusting, and even open the doors for the owner when they approached so they didn’t have to struggle with their stuff, keys, phone, etc.

It was about how technology could truly make our lives a bit easier.

I don’t know if that robot company will ever pursue that – as they are focused on the home robot that picks stuff up problem, and I applaud them for getting that going.

Meanwhile, the big players are moving towards what I had envisioned months ago. And I do think there will be a need for that home robot to be an integral extension or add-on to the autonomous home solution. But the bigger market, the one that’s going to be adopted more readily, quickly, and by a larger audience is the connected home and car.

Meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out how to make my DeLorean a flying car before October.

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