Thursday, September 13, 2018

Smart Houses

The October 2018 issue of CONSUMER REPORTS contains an article about some of the things a "smart house" can do for its occupants.

We're closer than I formerly realized to the versatile total-AI house in Ray Bradbury's classic story "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is available here:

There Will Come Soft Rains

CONSUMER REPORTS evaluates Internet-connected systems that remotely operate appliances from a cell phone, "smart speakers" such as Alexa and Siri that can be linked to thousands of domestic devices, and voice-operated home security features (e.g., video doorbells, smart locks, security cameras). Although you might have no interest in receiving messages from your refrigerator or washing machine, you might find it useful to be able to issue commands or ask questions while your hands are otherwise occupied and remotely lock doors or adjust the thermostat.

Here's a Wikipedia article on automated houses, which lists numerous other functions that such a structure might perform:

Home Automation

For instance: tracking the movements of pets and babies; turning lights off and on; monitoring air quality; monitoring vital signs and even dispensing medication for elderly or disabled persons; controlling smoke detectors and carbon dioxide sensors. It's all part of the rapidly evolving "Internet of things."

Wikipedia: Internet of Things

While we may not be able to build a sentient dwelling like SARAH, the intelligent, self-willed, and sometimes uncooperative house in the TV series EUREKA, all elements of the technology that runs the abandoned home in Bradbury's story are theoretically within our reach today. Two potential problems with living in a fully AI-operated house come to mind: (1) Suppose the system gets hacked? (2) If the designers place too much dependence on the technology and don't allow for manual override, the inhabitants could find themselves helpless in case the system malfunctions. Still, it might be fun to be able to speak any command or request and have the house fulfill it (including keeping the place clean). That could become an all-encompassing version of the ideal robot Jeeves I touched upon last week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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