With all the media attention focused on the financial chaos of
the housing industry, technology is emerging as an even more
powerful force of change. More and more home buyers are placing
emphasis on technology, or lack thereof, in the process of buying
their new home. This is causing a surge in demand for technologies
that are changing the way we have looked at homes for generations,
all driven by an increasingly educated home buyer that’s
looking toward the future for efficient new products and
Industry experts, corporations, and consumers are all pointing
to the same trend within the housing industry: the home is no
longer looked at as mere bricks and mortar, but rather as a
technological platform with the capability to adapt. Technology is
seen as a means to carry the concept of an affordable and liveable
private home into the 21st century, a concept now under attack.
Homes, followed by cars, represent the single biggest investment
for the average American. They also consume the most resources,
causing the biggest pain to our wallets. They are also a place
where we spend a significant amount of time, perhaps our most
important resource of all. There is no doubt that the home
represents a major part of our lives, both economically and in
terms of quality of life.
Despite some advances the home has been slow to change hundreds
of years. Studies have shown that the housing industry has been the
least innovative of our major industries despite its size. Most
people realize this is unsustainable, given the problems facing the
world today. In response consumers are creating an insatiable
demand for technology within the home. (cont.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art unveils an exhibition that shows
the technological innovation behind the pre-fabricated home. These
made to order homes may represent the homes of the future.
Highlighting the growing innovation in pre-fab homes, the
Metropolitan Museum of Art has unveiled an exhibit highlighting the
technological innovation behind the pre-fab home and how designers
are responding to global trends.
Unveiled at the show will be a full scale prototype of the
System 3, a design by Architects Oskar Kaufman and Albert Ruf.
After years of pursuing the optimum in high quality low cost
design, the System 3 is the pinnacle of austere elegance. Looking
like a direct cousin of a shipping container the System 3 abandones
traditional notions of architectural design. The truly intersting
aspect of it’s design however is it’s ability to be “stacked”,
taking multiple units and creating anything from hotels to office
towers and luxury villas. (cont.)
Events of the last five years have shown us that living on the
grid, dependent on large utility companies, has been anything but
stable. Large electric companies, still reliant on fossil fuel to
generate power, have been forced to raise prices dramatically. An
antiquated series of electrical lines, transformers, and switches
have produced devastating blackouts that have cost our economy
billions. With global demand for energy expected to rise, and the
cost of upgrading infrastructure approaching hundreds of billions,
living off the grid may become a highly plausible and desirable
future for many people.
In order to live off the grid you need to tie production and
consumption together, creating small scale systems for water and
power that require no outside support. It also requires a heavy
dose of conservation and efficiency, utilizing a system that
operates within the constraints of a limited source. Living off the
grid requires a large up front investment in equipment and
expertise, and a pioneering spirit. Costs for solar and wind
generation systems routinely cost tens of thousands of dollars,
yielding a cost per kilowatt hour that exceeds that of the grid.
Nonetheless it is becoming an option many people are beginning to
consider as the marketplace changes. More and more people are
looking to raw materials for energy that are free, inexhaustible,
As innovation and subsidies collide in the market to create
critical mass for residential solar and wind systems, it is
reasonable to expect demand for these technologies to grow.
According to Solar Buzz, a San Francisco-based industry research
company, demand for solar power has grown 20-25% a year for the
last twenty years. Many of these applications of solar power come
in the form of on the grid solutions, however many of these are
distributed at the point of use. It is however the biggest choice
for off the grid applications. Demand has grown so fast that more
silicon now goes into photovoltaics than computer chips.
There are many that see huge potential in windmill farms, solar fields and huge geothermal operations. And there is huge potential. Energy is a resource we seemingly cannot live without and can never get enough of. In fact, electricity may as well rank up there with water in level of importance.
But the problem facing the average consumer is that even if these huge projects are undertaken, they are still dependent on a large company for their energy needs. They are subject to rate hikes, unfair charges, and development costs the company undertakes.
How can the average person release themselves from the shackles of energy addiction?
Solar panels are a good start, but for many the idea of keeping track of battery fluid levels, the cost of the panels themselves, as well as winter months without Sun keeps floating in the back of their heads. Installing a windmill in their backyard is also out of the question, unless of course you have acres to spare and don’t mind the occasional malfunction.
One genre of products that have the potential to take the consumer market by storm is the micro wind turbine.
The most amazing thing about some of the movies hitting theaters nowadays is their uncanny ability to map human movement for special effects. Case in point are creatures such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, the great ape in King Kong, and of course the infamous movie Beowulf which mapped out the actors bodies so accurately that in some of the shots you’d have sworn they weren’t computerized images. It only makes sense that this kind of technology would gradually find its way into the broader consumer market.
Already people are spending hundreds on golf clubs that measure swing speed and trajectory, or gloves that tell you if you’re gripping the handles too hard. In fact there are even devices out there already that can tell you where your swing is wrong, if your feet are too far apart, or if your posture is poor. You can buy equipment and software that can work for just about any sport. Tennis, bowling, baseball or track and field to name a few. Heck, even curling, the greatest Olympic sport in the world, could benefit from video analysis.
Down the road we could see the technology get so advanced that instead of having to carry around 30 pounds of equipment costing over a thousand dollars, all we’ll need is an add-on to our digital cameras. Coupled with expert analysis instead of self-analysis, this product could change the importance and role of coaches worldwide.
Sports are perfect for this technology, but what other applications could this be used for?
Imagine taking tango lessons in your home with a world-class dancer telling you where you’re going wrong and what you’re doing right. A culinary program showing you the proper way to clean a fish or prepare cherries jubilee. If we really expand our minds, how about a mobile program on a sailboat speaking into your ear piece whether you’re on the port side instead of starboard, or telling you how to tie a knot step by step. What would you think about taking karate lessons from Jet Li?
If you enjoy Wii Fit, imagine playing a video game that depends on your every move. When attacking an entrenched bunker you have to lay lay flat on the ground, then jump up quickly to sprint across a mine field. Or maybe you have to dodge a lineman to dive and score the winning touchdown.
The possibilities are almost endless and not all that far from feasible.
But would there be a downside to this kind of technology?
Some crazy smart people over at MIT collaborated with a Danish design group to make a house that moves on legs.
The house, which reportedly can move up to five kilometers per hour, comes equipped with all the necessities for a personal dwelling. “The house is ten feet high, powered by solar panels, and is outfitted with a kitchen, toilet, bed, and wood stove.” What makes this different than a traditional motor home is that it can pass over objects where a tire might have a problem. It can reportedly “turn left and right, move forward and back, and even change height as needed.” In a sense, a true mobile home.
The hope is to eventually create a dwelling capable of climbing hills and navigating over rough terrain. They even hope to build a model which could also float on water for both land and sea adventures.