It has become increasingly popular for companies to make a YouTube video that depicts their world of future living. Some are intended to show what is possible now and others what it will be like in a few years hence. Most depict a world where technology is there to serve us making our lives more efficient, less effortful, more informative, and even calming. One future living video I came across the other day, while doing some research for am upcoming lecture, was by Hoover – the well known vacuum cleaning company. It was released a few weeks ago, to promote their vision of the future home, where people can stay in touch with all their white goods via an application that is ostensibly the Internet of Things – wherever they are. The marketing guys have even metamorphosed the concept into a Wizard that does it all for them with the strapline “Tech that Talks”.
The scenarios played out of modern life are so out of touch with the messiness and richness of the real world it made me laugh. The kitchen has been decked out with smart sensors that proudly send out a constant string of notifications to the owners’ smartphones and tablets keeping them informed of how much energy is being used, when the cooking is done, when the dishwasher has been switched on, and so on. A young couple are shown living in perfect harmony; the wife sitting on a bar stool flicking through her tablet, waiting for the stove to tell her to take a saucepan off the hob when the stove has decided it is ready. The husband, meanwhile, is out cycling by himself in the park when he gets a notification on his phone, that is strapped to his arm. He stops, takes his phone out of the arm strap and reads a message from the cooker telling him the fan in the cooker hood has been activated – presumably because of the steam arising from the cooking. He smiles to himself – presumably because he infers dinner will be ready on the table when he gets back.
Honestly, do these tech companies seriously think young couples dream of a life where they are constantly bombarded by notifications on their phones letting them know every time the fridge, the oven, the dishwasher, the cat flap and so on have done something they feel worthy of broadcasting? It is enough to turn anyone into an obsessive-compulsive disorder addict. Never mind the sterotyping of the different roles.
Some of the videos have an injection of humour in them that at least makes you know they are not taking themselves totally seriously. One I liked from a couple of years ago was a concept video of how a pair of running shoes could talk to its wearer, encouraging them to be more active. They got a lot of mileage from considering how to get people to run for the pleasure of it – rather than reaching some target that most of the self obsessed step counting apps that are around now make us all aim for.
There are also a number of videos that show how future technology can transform the health of the nation. The one below was created for me and a friend while we were on a ride at Disneyland. It is short, sweet, funny and suggestive of how we can continue to enjoy life without being scared of taking risks because technology will be there to the rescue – to heal our broken bones in a matter of hours.
One of my favourite videos of future living captures the absurdity and stupidity of a future where monitoring and notifying are at its heart. It portrays a man in his 70s finding the smart home all rather tedious and tiresome – that his children and grand children have set up for him to reassure themselves (sic) that he is living healthily and safely by himself at home. He then works out how to outsmart the smart technology while keeping his family thinking he is doing all the things they want him to do. There is hope yet for humanity after all.