What “Blade Runner 2049″ tells us about the future smart home

Due to the fact that I’m working in the smart home business I often get asked, what’s my long-term vision of living in the future? How does A.I. and new devices improve and change our daily living routines like coming home, cooking, relaxing, family life, sleeping, awaking or leaving home?

Predicting the future is hard if you’re not a futurologist, because you very often interpolate the past into the future! Although being no futurologist my collected experiences in the last years have formed my vision of a smart home.

Working day-by-day with my team on user stories for a bigger topic often leads to a very narrow perspective with a big chance of losing the vision. I wouldn’t get so far and say that I have lost my big picture, but as I went to the cinema some weeks ago to watch the visually extraordinary sci-fi movie Blade Runner 2049 it was revived! Although this movie is really a dark dystopia, it shows primarily in the character Joi (please replace the “i” with and “y” and you know for what kind of pleasure she stands for) a future, which will be highly determined by A.I., Joi is some kind of sex robot which consists of bits and bytes and is visualized as a very sexy and emotional hologram. She (it’s hard to say that she is only a “it”) serves her customer, the main character “K” (played by Ryan Gosling), who is also not human but a so-called replicant.

My Home Is My Peace Of Mind

Somewhere in the first part of the movie “K” goes home. A home for replicants in Blade Runner 2049 takes place in an outstanding ugly, dirty and run-down skyscraper building, where the stairwell is some kind of combat zone with junkies, criminals and other suspicious characters. After “K” has battled his way through and enters his apartment in one of the top floors and closes the door, the atmosphere changes from hostile into calm, peaceful and protected!

The look of the tiny apartment is clean and rather cool, mainly because of the grey tiles and LED wall lights. The apartment is separated into a corridor, a kitchen and a living room, which has a big glass facade with a spectacular outlook. The decor of the living room is kept minimalistic: One small dining table with a single chair and one pull-out table for mixing drinks. We see neither the bedroom nor the bathroom. There are no emotional artifacts like paintings or photos shown (ok, he’s a replicant, but has nevertheless childhood memories).

For ensuring that Joi can move from one room to another, a rail construction is attached all along the ceilings. To control her and other functions of the smart home a controller unit is built in the wall and can be operated with a touch display. Please note: No smartphone or tablet is needed!

The peak of A.I.

Director Villeneuve tells us, that smart living in the future is much more than just installing some smart thermostats and lights and control them with an app or some smart buttons. Or creating a “If this then that” coming home rule, so that your home is switching on lights or heats up the living room while entering your home geo fence. That’s all fine, but it doesn’t adapt or is reliable enough for fulfilling our actual goals and needs time of manual continuous re-adjusting.

Instead a future smart home will be dominated by a highly emotional and context aware A.I. which is ubiquitous in your home. It’s also possible to take it away on some kind of USB stick – “A.I. to go”. This A.I. will be visualized as a hologram and communication happens through voice – respective a damn good speech recognition. It has also a huge playful approach. You should feel like being part of Legend of Zelda role play. The difference between reality and fiction is hardly distinguishable. It should feel natural.

In the above mentioned scene, Joi welcomes “K” with soothing jazz music. She pretends to be the perfect housewife: She’s empathic, polite, obliging but also nasty and sexy. She (virtually) cooks and will later even have some (realvirtual) sex with him! Exacltly this combination of all good habits makes such an A.I. so attractive for humans, because you get a big return on wjhat you invest. It gives you the feeling of retaining upper hand when it might comes to stressful situations. She’s a perfect simulation and illusion. She’s designed only for us, rather than asking us to adapt ourselves to her. She’s the pinnacle of A.I.!

Where are we now?

The current VR glasses (i.e. Samsung Gear) and the immense success of smart speakers packed with machine learning algorithms like Amazon Echo or Google Home shows, that the first step is made. But this is just like holding your big toe into the Pacific ocean. Today emotion, context recognition and adaptivity is still missing! And that’s really hard to establish. We just started but the “Big Five” (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft) or their Chinese counterparts Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu have currently good positions, as mentioned in this article of Jon Evans, because of their collected data and immense resources. And we shouldn’t forget vertical platform giants coming from the automotive area like Tesla or my company Bosch, as this Economist article summarizes.

Do we really want it?

Although it can feel really creepy: Many want it, because you get such a huge benefit for your daily life and it will hit the future zeitgeist! As also shown in another fantastic Sci-fi movie called Her, the ubiquity, adaptivity and emotionality of an A.I. makes it so attractive and useful! In this motion picture from 2013 the main character Theodore – played by the gorgeous Joaquin Phoenix – falls in love with the voice (Samantha) of a new operating system, which is always there in his headset. Exactly this kind of fully ubiquious user experience is the key for many people forgetting every kind of security or privacy concerns.

Let’s hope, that future global tech firms still live by the motto: “Don’t be evil!”

P.S. Big thanx @heumann for editing this article👍

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