Tech at Home

Our apartments, condos, and houses aren’t just the place that shields us from the elements they are also the place we call home. These are the places we spend much of our free time, we entertain friends and we try to make ourselves comfortable. Because of this, it isn’t much of a surprise that technology has played a big role in how our homes have been built and designed.

For most of us, our lives at home have generally been centered around one of two rooms, either our living room where most of our entertainment and consumption of media has taken place or the kitchen/dining room where we prepare and serve food for our family and guests.

Technology has played a big roll in the way each of these rooms has been shaped over the years. Our living rooms have been the hub for content consumption and entertainment, while the technology available in our kitchen has changed the way we cook and ultimately eat. So let’s take a look at the way tech has impacted each of these rooms a bit closer.

I can remember stories from my grandfather about sitting around with his family as a young kid and listening to the radio in the living room. Back then the radio was the centerpiece of entertainment for the home. By the time my father was growing up, the Television had become that central entertainment device and it stayed that way until well after I was grown. Of course, there was some advancement in TV tech, the resolution got higher, the sets got thinner and we were eventually able to time shift content. But it was connectivity and the internet that really changed all of that.

Today more and more content is consumed on mobile devices, and that has moved the main focal point away from the living room and a central content consumption station and more towards individual consumption and interaction. Now, I’m not saying that all content is consumed in this way, but the trend is clear.

Even the way content is delivered has changed. For a very long time it was delivered via radio waves, then cable and satellite providers played a role in delivery and today most popular continent comes our way via the internet. In today’s content landscape streaming is king, everyone else is second fiddle. To that end, even most of the tech that focuses on the living room has tapped into this streaming trend. I can remember almost a decade ago getting my first Roku device that was focused exclusively on streaming OTT content. Today the devices have become smaller and in many cases integrated directly into the TV.

At that intersection of mobile consumption of content and streaming being the defacto method of delivery, we have seen the experience shift from consuming content together in front of a single device to consuming content together in front of multiple devices in diverse locations.

The kitchen is another story altogether. While it has traditionally been more of a work area in the home, it can absolutely be just as social of an environment. Like any other work or social aspect of life, technology has changed the way we prepare and consume food, this has been the case since humans first discovered fire. Today is no different, tech continues to push the limits of the way we prepare food at home. When I was an undergrad an induction hot plate was all the rage, but today, continuing with the trend of mobile first we have seen a surge in cooking instruments that connect to your mobile device to give you a great level of control both technically and creatively.

The first time I saw such a device was a wifi connected crock pot that could be controlled via a mobile app. At the time I saw this I was very much in the habit of preparing my dinner in a crockpot, let it cook all day so it was ready when I came home. As life is unpredictable there were times I would be out much longer than anticipated and would come home to overcooked mush. Being able to drop the temp in those cases would have saved the meal and still have it warm when I came home and it would be much free.

In the years since mobile control and monitoring has continued as a trend in the kitchen. Everything from Bluetooth connected meat probes, wifi connected egg trays and a mobile controlled sous vide machines that allow all types of creativity along with perfect control of cooking temperature. Also bridging the content and mobile gap from the living room to the kitchen is the influx of cooking content that we can consume from just about any device. So if you want to take on a new dish with friends you can easily stream an episode from one of your favorite cooking shows (mine happens to be Binging with Babish)

This trend of mobile-enabled kitchen gadgets isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and it’s going to continue to change the way we prepare and serve food and maybe the way we do it with others.

Where this trend of mobile and streaming content for the whole home becomes really interesting though is when we add a touch of AI into the mix (that’s Artificial Intelligence for those of you that have been living under a rock). Devices like the Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apples Home pod fill a very interesting space. They give us a sort of virtual assistant, not as interesting or advanced as the one we saw in Her and a lot less kill-happy than HAL 9000. These devices essentially change the way we interact with tech in our home and how it inserts itself into our daily life. These devices give us a voice interface for a different technology that we would otherwise need to physically interact with.

While it seems the Amazon Alexa has been around forever, this tech is still young, the further integration of the systems has a long way to go. We are not yet at the point where I can tell my virtual assistant to start a stream of my favorite cooking show and tweet my favorite parts at my friend while also making sure my connected oven is regulating the temperature and humidity just right.

We might not be there yet, but it’s getting there.

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