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Designing a Home of the Future
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by Stephen S. Intille 14 the future of Architecture

People spend more time in their homes than in any other space. The home ideally provides a safe, comfortable environment in which to relax, communicate, learn, and be enter-tained. Increasingly, it is where people con-nect with friends and family, conduct business, manage resources, learn about the world, and maintain health and autonomy as they age. People invest extraordinary amounts of time, money, and emotional energy to mold their homes into living spaces that meet their needs.

Unfortunately, homes today are ill-suited to exploiting the pervasive computing applications being developed in laboratories. Most homes do not easily accommodate even the simplest new technologies, let alone embedded sensor infrastructures and ubiquitous display technologies. Moreover, homeowners generally believe that computer devices make life more complex and frustrating rather than easier and more relaxing. They are wary of the aesthetic, financial, and cognitive challenges of bringing new technologies into their homes.

Researchers in the Changing Places/House_n: MIT Home of the Future Consortium (http://architecture. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are investigating how the home and its related technologies, products, and services should evolve to better meet the opportunities and challenges of the future. Our team's researchers have backgrounds in computer science, user interface design and usability, architecture, mechanical engineering, psychology, and materials science. The "n" in House_n represents a variable; we believe there is no single "home of the future." In particular, we aim to create design strategies for more flexible environments that better meet occupants' physical and cognitive needs than current environments. Based on discussions with medical professionals, patients, educators, and homeowners, we believe that the home of most value in the future will not use technology primarily to automatically control the environment but instead will help its occupants learn how to control the environment on their own.

This shift is the focus of this article. As a byproduct of this shift, new tools are required to study technology in the context of home life. To address this need, our team has designed and is planning to construct a "living laboratory" that will support qualitative and quantitative studies inves-tigating the relationships between spaces, the behaviors of people, and pervasive computing technologies.


Our proposal for a home that teaches occupants how to take control raises the following three challenges, among others, that would benefit from further exploration:

Measuring learning or behavior change.

How can we develop algorithms and systems that use context-aware sensing to measure the impact of new technologies on learning and behavior over long periods of use?

Using context-based simulation.
One of the most effective ways to learn is through guided exploration via simulation. Can we create real-time simulations of environments that can be used to show people the impact of their actions at the point of decision? For instance, if I open this window now to this degree, what is the estimated impact on the breeze in my home one hour from now? Also, can these systems exploit the Internet for automatically acquiring required data?

Detecting the point of decision.
How can we identify the point of decision for various activities and then detect these moments in time automatically?

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