The Future Of Home Living


Interview by PSFK Aug 11, 2011 | PSFK

PSFK Labs chats with Ayesha Khanna, director of the Hybrid Reality Institute, on how new technologies are changing the way we interact with our environment.

As part of our Future of Home Living Series, PSFK Labs reached out to experts to get their take on the changes we’ve identified that are driving the evolution of the home. We recently caught up with Ayesha Khanna, CEO of Urban Intel and Director of the Hybrid Reality Institute, a think tank that explores the practical implications of what she refers to as ‘human-technology co-evolution in the Hybrid Age’. Read our chat with Ayesha below to hear more about how new technologies are changing the way we interact with our environment.

With the explosion of sensor-embedded objects that have moved from simple wearables to products for the home, how does that impact our daily life and routines? What are the benefits of all that data?

It’s difficult to speak about the benefits of sensor-embedded objects without talking about dangers as well, and vice-versa. Some of the benefits of having sensors in the house include warnings about food that has rotted, health monitoring through weight, saliva and other diagnostic tests that are wirelessly transmitted to your doctor and analyzed, and centralized control of the environment of the house through an easy-to-user dashboard. We could live more efficient, healthier and sustainable lives. However, it is unclear to the resident who actually owns this very personal data about his or her daily lives: where is this data stored, how is it used, is it sold to a health insurance company or a prospective employer? Each apartment renter, home-owner and vacation tenant should ask for the answers to these questions before signing an agreement to inhabit a particular space. Different people will have varying thresholds about their privacy, but regardless, they have the right to know.

When technology becomes more anticipatory and responsive, how does that change our relationship to our homes? What is the balance between human input and HAL from 2001?

The notion of home as a physical space will be replaced by the notion of a home that can be recreated anywhere we go. With people increasingly mobile in search of jobs and adventure, how will we recreate our home environment wherever we go? Our virtual “housekeeper” who knows how much light we like streaming through the windows in the morning, how much the smell of freshly brewed coffee makes us happy, the pictures we love to see on the wall, and the music that puts us in a mellow mood when we have a glass of wine, will be able to recreate those spaces and moments, making any space truly ours in the moment.

Here’s the question: does it kill spontaneity? Yes, it can to a degree. Do you want your virtual “housekeeper” to know your birth date and bake a cake, trumping the hand scrawled card your kids made? No, of course not. But you do want it to tell your 90-year grandfather that he’s about to slip on a fallen banana.

It’s ok to view “housekeeper” affectionately as a friend but to remember that humans ultimately control how the balance between giving machines the freedom to create a comfortable and secure home environment and dictating how we live our lives in those homes.

What do you see as the next big trend(s) in urban living and why is this important?

People will likely live in densely populated high rises that have relatively smaller apartments that can easily be configured into different types of spaces (study, bedroom, living room). In general, houses will be less cluttered as the notion of “home” becomes more mobile and attachment to economic opportunities, travel and experiences dominates the desire for a plethora of physical objects.

Public services like healthcare and education will also become more localized in these denser neighborhoods, many of them made more efficient with online delivery such as e-learning and tele-medicine.

The challenge will remain how to take advantage of technology’s ability to untether oneself from physical houses, while protecting oneself from the tendency to value virtual environments and communication over physical social interaction. We’ll begin to see more emphasis on shared public spaces as city governments realize that innovation and happiness are both spurred with more social interaction.

What are three things you’d put in your perfect home or apartment?

Tinkering room: A configurable space with hidden drawers and tables, which can turn any space into a fun room for family and friends to play with Legos, create objects with 3D printers, experiment with biology sets, and paint and sculpt.

Windows into the world: An immersive environment room that brings live HD video feeds from different parts of the world and displays them onto the wall. It makes one feel one is looking out into a busy street in Tokyo from one’s desk, or at night, camping under the stars in the Sahara desert.

Tech-free button: A switch to turn off all technological gadgets in the house and just be alone or with friends without worrying about who or what is listening.

Thanks Ayesha!

Link to interview.