November 1, 2007 Computer scientists have found new ways to use technology to make people's lives easier. Setting up cameras in the kitchen to record each step made in cooking helps cooks pick up where they left off if distracted. An electronic picture can use symbols to convey a wealth of information -- the more stripes on the barber pole, the more traffic on the way home. A camera worn around a person's neck can interpret gestures, transmit them to electronic devices, replacing remote controls.
What does your future look like? Here's a look at what some of the leading scientists are working on today to bring into your homes tomorrow.
On the outside a home might look like any other ... but inside, it's can be high-tech all the way! Sensors can show if someone is in your home and where they are at all times. You can check in from any computer -- anywhere.
"A system called the cook's collage uses these cameras and it takes pictures as you cook," Elizabeth Mynatt, interactive computing expert at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.
The cook's collage records the images so if you get distracted by the kids when you're cooking, you can take a quick look and remember what you've already done.
And they say a painting says a thousand words -- well some paintings actually do. These painting are called Info Canvases.
"It helps people keep aware of the information that may not be crucial, but it's important in their lives," John Stasko, interactive computing expert at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.
The electronic picture is hooked up to the computer, so at a quick glance, images in the picture reflect what's going on. The more red stripes on a barber poll, the worse the traffic on the way home. A sailboat represents the time of day. The sun on represents the weather right now, and on the other side of the picture is the forecast for tomorrow. The color of a towel changes when there's an email from a spouse.
"If your stocks are doing really well, maybe a bird will be flying high in the sky. When they're not doing so well [it's not]," Stasko said.
And forget your remote control! A new gesture watch has four sensors on it and can recognize hand gestures that can control the TV, lights, DVD, mp3 player -- just about anything.
And instead of an office, this may be all you'll need -- a wearable computer. Thad Starner wears his computer on a heads up display. Thad sees notes, past emails, and is able to email colleagues as he's talking to someone else.
"Just like a normal computer display, but it puts the image right out here in front of me," Starner said.
It's hooked up to a battery pack and small computer -- and can run for days. Starner says the wearable computer doesn't hurt his eyes and that actually, his eyesight has gotten better since he's started using it. All of this technology is being tested right now, and could be ready for consumers in the next five years. Just a few new ideas that may change the way you live in the future.
BACKGROUND: What will homes be like in the high-tech future? The stuff of cutting-edge scientific research today is tomorrow's household technology, and consumer products could be available as soon as five years from now. For instance, kitchens will be outfitted with cameras and sensors to assist cooks in preparing meals. Framed electronic picture screens will keep household members informed of the latest news, weather, stock market and traffic reports. Wearable computers could be commonplace, and perhaps we will finally be able to replace those bulky remote controls with a watch that lets you change the channel with a flick of the wrist.
COOK'S COLLAGE: The Cook's Collage provides a visual summary of recent cooking activity along a kitchen countertop. Visual snapshots are arranged chronologically as a series of panels, similar to a comic strip, ending with the most recent action highlighted in yellow. The technology helps absent-minded cooks and people with memory problems keep track of where they are in the cooking process by 'remembering' past actions for them.
THE INFO CANVAS: The InfoCanvas is a hybrid ambient display: a flat-panel LCD screen that can be placed within a picture frame so the entire unit can be hung on the wall, or set like a picture on a desk. It serves as an 'electronic painting,' or 'information art,' in which the location and appearance of images in the scene changes to display relevant information.
GESTURE PENDANT: The Gesture Pendant allows ordinary household devices to be controlled with the wave of a hand, making it possible to replace remotes with simple hand gestures. The user wears a small pendant that contains a wireless camera. The user makes gestures in front of the pendant that control anything from a home theater system to lighting. The pendant system can also analyze the user's movement, looking for signs of loss of motor skill or tremors in the hands, and observe daily activities to determine if a person has been eating regularly and moving around.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.