When Back to the Future hit the big screen in 1985, we were convinced the future would be a wondrous place where hover boards dominated the sidewalk and shoelaces would tie themselves. Fast-forward to 2016 and, on face value, you might be a little let down. Even though there are no flying cars or holographic posters, don't be fooled—the latest smart technology might be subtle, but it's also surprisingly powerful and intuitive, and it's only getting better.
To find out what the house of the future might look like, we spoke to the experts who are intent on shaping the next generation of home goods. Oh, and if you can't wait until the latest Wi-Fi–enabled cooking tools are released (they're poised to launch soon!), we've also found the best smart appliances you can buy now to upgrade each room of your house. Ready for a tour? This is what your home will be like in the future.
Your kitchen sponge is said to be 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, and, given you use it to "clean" surfaces after eating, it's little wonder the kitchen countertop is regarded as one of the filthiest places in your home. Thankfully for germophobes, dirty countertops could be a thing of the past. When creating her ideal smart house, designer Sabine Schoenberg found a countertop material by Dekton that had zero porosity—yes, there are no hidden nooks where bacteria can breed.
Cleanliness isn't the only area of a kitchen that's getting a much-needed upgrade in the future. David VanderWaal of LG Electronics tells MyDomaine that the appliance giant is "actively working to develop its next generation Wi-Fi-enabled cooking appliances." Meanwhile, their first smart oven was synced to an app so you can select a recipe and automate your oven to cook it to perfection. No more burnt meals.
Don't worry, your fridge, coffee maker, and juicer are also getting a smart upgrade:
Not sure whether you're running out of milk? This intuitive refrigerator has three in-built cameras so you can see the contents of the fridge remotely, and it has a touch-screen display that allows you to order groceries online, make recipe notes, or stream music.
Meet you new personal barista. This handy little machine remembers how you like your morning cuppa and will have it ready for you so you can literally wake up to the smell of fresh coffee.
Do you need a $699 juicer? Probably not, but you've got to give Juicero props for its genius design. Simply take one of the vacuum-sealed packs filled with raw, organic produce, place it in the machine, and press go. The juicer will extract the natural goodness from each sachet, creating a cold-pressed drink in seconds, without any mess to clean up. Worth the price tag? We'll leave that to you to decide.
The future of your bedroom is bright, really bright, says Dietmar Dix, designer, and co-founder of innovative lighting company LIGEO. Dix's smart LED lights are customizable and can be connected with other light rods to create endless different formations—you're literally limited by your imagination. The lights are synced with an app, so you can also change the colors of the bulbs to suit your mood or new decor scheme.
"We see individualization [as a leading trend] in the future," he says. "A lot of people do want a customizable solution that they can still change after some time. People may move frequently, redesign or refurnish their home decor over and over again, or just generally enjoy constant refresh and change." In other words, if Dix's Kickstarter campaign is successful, one simple purchase could birth hundreds of different designs.
In the interim, these smart products are available now to update your nightstand and lighting:
Set the mood with these smart lights. Each bulb is controlled by an app, allowing you to change their color or intensity and save ideal settings like your morning and evening routine. Oh, and it's compatible with Amazon Alexa, so it also obeys voice command.
Don't judge the capability of this teeny humidifier by its size. Simply plug it into a USB port, and the mini bottle is powerful enough to cleanse the air of any personal space, making it the perfect desk or nightstand companion.
If you've been to Japan, you'll probably think you've already caught a glimpse of the bathroom of the future, but the innovations that will make their way to American homes will likely be more subtle than a bells-and-whistles toilet. If Kohler's Digital Shower is anything to go by, the bathroom of the future will be geared towards comfort. Priced at $3996, the intuitive system allows you to set the temperature, steam, and light intensity on a keypad to ensure your bathroom experience is nothing short of restorative.
If you don't have a spare few thousand to invest in a shower system or $10,200 to splash out on a high-tech toilet, try these slightly more modest purchases to give your washroom a smart upgrade:
Stream music, radio, or listen to the morning news as you shower via this innovative showerhead with an in-built speaker.
Quit wasting water with this intuitive system that senses when you need the most water during a shower and adjusts the usage and pressure to suit.
This device wirelessly connects to your smartphone or computer and alerts you when it notices water leaks or mold issues to save you money.
It might sound futuristic, but the concept of speaking to an empty room is already a reality for anyone who owns an Amazon Echo. Many hailed the smart device as an unnecessary gadget, but you'd better get used to it—whispers that Google is releasing their own rival product, Chirp, prove the next-gen, do-it-all control centers are here to stay.
"We see consumers using the living room as a central hub for everything they do," agrees LG's David VanderWaal. He predicts the future of home technology will center around behavior, and has recently launched the LG OLED G6, a glass 2.57 millimeter-thin television that toggles between streaming services, traditional channels, and external devices with ease.
It doesn't stop with home entertainment. These smart devices will help you automate your living room temperature and even make chores a thing of the past:
After a week of adjusting your room temperature via this handy device, it'll assess your usage patterns and make sure your home is never too hot or cold. The best bit? It automatically switches off the thermostat during the day so you never waste money.
Robot vacuum cleaners seem gimmicky, but experts agree this is one of the best on the market. Simply switch it on and let the device map your home to create an optimal cleaning path.
Ask questions, stream music, read the news, and control all the smart appliances in your home from this simple central hub.
Forgot to lock your door? That won't be an issue in a matter of years, says Brian Stark, U.S. general manager of smart home innovator Smanos. "The biggest trends we see emerging in the home technology space are centered around the increasing simplicity of being connected to your home from miles away," he says. "Whether its controlling your heating or having access to a live video feed, there are so many possibilities to increase the convenience of controlling our home."
It turns out giving your home a smart upgrade could also impact its sale price. Realtor Ricardo Rodriguez of Coldwell Banker says real estate trends could also help predict what the home of the future might look like. "I’m seeing homebuyers requesting smart home features such as automated lighting, temperature control, AV, and smart appliances. Security is also top of mind for those with kids," he says. "[It's] shifting the value proposition of the home."
And while the notion of a video doorbell or security system disguised as an outdoor light might seem futuristic, a few companies have taken bounds to make them a reality. These products will bring your entryway out of the dark ages:
Hide unsightly cords on your entryway table with a floating shelf with inbuilt device chargers.
A discreet security system disguised in a lighting fixture that allows you to remotely monitor entry points to your home via an app.