Getting builders to construct your own planned house on your property is like having a car maker come and assemble your car in your driveway. But according to Clive Vorster, visiting professor of architecture at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Design, it makes more sense to build the components off-site then ship them, but he and the research team involved with the FutureHAUS want to do so without flimsy, lightweight materials. The team has been building separate modules for different areas of a house, and they brought the bedroom “cartridge” to the recent KBIS 2017 (Kitchen and Bath Industry Show) in Orlando, Florida. Each separate piece has a sort of piano hinge that allows it to fold up, and three cartridges can fit in or on an 18-wheeler. But the modules can’t just fit together in a structural sense because they need to be synchronized. You see, the goal is to eliminate all visible buttons that you normally see in homes.
When you walk from the kitchen to the bedroom, the light should follow you, thanks to occupancy sensors in the couch and around the room. That means you don’t need light switches. Power outlets are also missing. Instead, the table uses inductive charging to power up your phone. Most of the furniture pulls double duty. The panels on the wall aren’t just decorative; the Gorilla glass hides a transducer that generates sound, instead of installing traditional speakers. Lie down on the bed, and it will adjust to your comfort level, while the other side is suited to your spouse. A panel above the bed can work as a TV screen or light panel. The ambient lighting adjusts based on what you’re watching. Taking a cue from sci-fi films, a screen on the wall lets you select your outfit.
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Choose a shirt, and the software will cause the motorized carousel in your closet to spin, bringing the garment to you. “Some of these ideas are, perhaps, gimmicks that we’re playing with but they always take on and breed another idea that’s better than the first one,” added Vorster. Once you get dressed up, you can push the entire wall, which sits on rails, to hide your dressing room and washer and dryer, turning the room into a workspace. The bed folds up, revealing a sit-stand desk. A touchscreen conference table also has a motion-tracking camera overhead, so you could move through electronic pages with a wave of your hand. FutureHAUS brought other modules to previous KBIS shows, like the kitchen and bathroom versions. “Now we have the complete kit of parts to test and develop the local AI software for the house,” said Vorster. But the Virginia Tech team is planning on doing more than designing living spaces. Once it has the complete house set up, it wants to build another layer on top, where they can tinker with hospital modules and classrooms.