The Conscious Home could make me a better Parent

The news of Nest being bought by Google makes me very excited about the future (if you somehow missed that news, here’s a great article to read). Put aside your fears of mega-corporations and just look at it from a Utopian standpoint. I like looking at things from a Utopian standpoint. And then daydreaming and writing outlines and beginnings to stories about Distopian futures. But that’s what I want in my life. Signs of Utopia in reality and non-stop Distopian books, movies, and other fiction.

Co-founder and Nest CEO Tony Fadell wants us all to live in a “Conscious Home”. I want that too. And so should you.

In addition to the Nest + Google news, there’s another article I read this week about the Internet of Things and the future of our buildings. That article, The Internet of Things Taught My Dog to Text, is about using products by SmartThings, which connect devices within a home and allow users to set up simple if-X-then-Y chains of commands (often referred to as “if this, then that” statements). It’s pretty cool, and while still in its early days, the potential is huge.

The Conscious House could make me a better Parent.

Imagine an “if this, then that” program for your house that doesn’t alert you when there’s a fire or carbon monoxide, but when there’s tension. Or yelling. Or bad behavior. I could use this. Badly. Especially when I’m tired or stressed. Which if you’ve ever been a parent with little kids (whether or not you’re also working a full time job or trying to grow a business) is like all the time.

What kind of Monster would ever yell at these two amazing creatures? Sadly me.

This is what I envision: tiny microphones that don’t record what’s being said, just the volume. Or the timber of voices. Okay, honestly I wouldn’t mind if it records everything, because then I could play it back and learn from my mistakes. But I know a lot of people worry about the impending Surveillance Society.  Anyways, when these microphones hear a certain decibel level, say of my voice only, a computer program is triggered to play a message—only in the room creating the noise, via the whole-house sound system—that reminds me to calm down. Maybe it says “Jared, please take a break.” Or “Jared, remember to ask what’s wrong.” Or “Jared, are you mad at the girls or just tired?” “Is this helping?” “Are you making it worse?” “Does this really matter?” “Is everyone safe?” “Do you need help?” “Why aren’t you calling in Carolyn for backup?” All these messages would be recordings of either me or my wife saying these helpful reminders. And since there are powerful algorithms at work here, I could respond to the messages and the computer could advise me further. Of course these are all things I should remember to do without the aid of an intelligent machine, but the backup would be great. And I bet overtime I would learn to act better and not trigger the program as much.

We talk about 4D, 5D, 6D+ BIM, but what about 4D and 5D buildings?

Architects can get into the conversation of the Conscious Home (Building) or leave it up to businesses, homeowners and other professionals to fill the void. But let me ask you a question: are you designing spaces for people to physically exist in, or multi-dimensional experiences for people to live in? Are you satisfied with just designing the stuff you can touch, or do you want to go beyond? Is a building just the physical three-dimensions, or can it be much, much more?

As an architect what are you interested in designing? And what are you going to let others do, whether by choice or by ignorance of what we CAN design? As an architect, your job isn’t necessarily to create these tools and write the code. People are already inviting this stuff. Right now. I bet—I KNOW— with off the shelf technology, someone could create my parental reminder app today. As an architect, you have the opportunity to synthesize what the Conscious Home means and apply it to our built environment in intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful, and magical ways.

Do you have thoughts about the future of our built environment? Want to share your ideas as a guest blogger? E-mail me! Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and RSS feed. And now you can join the LinkedIN group too.

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