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A Robotic Home That Knows When You’re Hungover
A company is developing apartment buildings with sensors, automated appliances, and the ability to learn an owner’s habits.
Perhaps the home of the future will be filled with robots. Or maybe that home itself will be a robot.
That’s the vision some technologists have for the future of domestic living, and a startup called Brain of Things announced Thursday that it is developing what the company’s founder refers to as “robot homes” in three locations in California.
These apartments come with a stunning array of sensors and automated fixtures and appliances. They also have the ability to learn and adapt to residents’ habits and preferences to an almost creepy degree, thanks to computer servers that collect data and use it to build models of behavior using machine-learning algorithms.
“The house knows the context, whether [its occupants] were watching a movie or sleeping or whatever,” says Ashutosh Saxena, a research fellow at Stanford and founder of Brain of Things, which is based in Redwood City, California. “As they are walking around the house, our house follows how they are acting, and it can know a lot.”
The blinds in the apartment will automatically lift when you rise for work in the morning, and lower mechanically at the right time in the evening. If the apartment senses that you just got up for a glass of water in the night, it will light the way without blinding you. It can even learn to keep the blinds lowered for longer on Sunday morning if you got in late or had friends over for a party.
Some might question whether their home really needs to take on a life of its own, but there is an undeniable trend toward adding more intelligence, connectivity, and communication ability to home fixtures. The thermostats sold by Nest, now owned by Google, learn to recognize users’ heating preferences, and products from companies such as Smart Things make it possible to access existing devices over the Internet and program them to behave more intelligently.
Saxena’s academic research focuses on ways for robots to learn and share information (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2016: Robots That Teach Each Other”). He says that while a great deal of attention has been paid recently to automating cars, automating the home may be even more important. “People spend 5.5 percent of their lives in cars,” he says. “We spend 68.7 percent out time in our homes.”
The homes that Brain of Things is developing are fitted with around 20 motion sensors, and the lights, the appliances, the entertainment systems, the heating and air conditioning, and the plumbing are all connected and automated.