Is combining furniture with modern technology the next logical step in home design? Of course, there are many people who will completely disagree with this and I’m sure there will be many “analogue” alternatives to tech furniture for centuries to come. Maybe they will eventually be seen as being vintage in style, who knows. But as generations grow older, those who were born into the world of modern technology will be more willing to embrace it as it begins to consume every aspect of their day-to-day life.
Bedroom of the Future – designed by the Sleep Council
Is the future really as neon as they say?
Are our homes going to look like something out of a sci-fi movie? I think we have a pretty distorted view of what the future of furniture has in store for us in terms of design. With over-complicated, over-designed features that the average person will never care about – such as floating kitchens, that can be folded into a white high-gloss sphere that glows a gentle blue, and assembles itself automatically again with a touch of a button, also revealing a built-in, self-sustaining herb garden, etc, etc, etc. People’s preferences in design tend to vary a lot. High gloss, contemporary-looking furniture is not for everyone – and so we cannot expect that all furniture in the future is going to share these visual qualities that we have come to stereotype as being furniture of the future.
How smart is smart furniture?
Furniture will above all be designed for convenience, as well as comfort and aesthetic. Multi-functional furniture that serves a range of purposes. Furniture manufacturers will look to solve simple problems that we face on a daily basis using furniture, something that we are constantly surrounded by no matter our environment – our homes, our offices, public locations.
The most recent of “smart furniture” developments is probably the incorporation of wireless charging technology into furniture. Intel have recently developed a bowl, which you can place multiple devices in and they will all be charged simultaneously using some sort of magnetic resonance technology. Completely wirelessly. No need for cables at all.
Removing the need for external cables is going to be a necessity as we increase the number of tech essentials that the average person owns. People want to keep up with all the latest gadgets, but they just don’t want to be juggling chargers throughout the day. Integrating the charging of devices with everyday items like furniture is going to be a huge step forward in the way that we use furniture to solve these everyday inconveniences that we face.
Our smart devices are extensions of our limbs. We use our smartphones for everything. We often don’t realise how much we depend on them until we go cold turkey for over 48 hours. Maybe you lose your phone, or your internet service goes down or whatever. As we become more and more dependant on internet-capable technology, we are going to need furniture that can be used as device charging stations and wifi hotspots.
Even mainstream furniture giants are starting to bring out ranges of furniture that double as wireless charging hotspots, with lamps, desks and coffee tables all giving a convenient surface to just place your phone easily to charge. Though of course we can expect these items of furniture to be pretty pricey, and not even compatible yet with the majority of our devices, for a few years now until they become the norm.
In South Korea, smart furniture is already becoming a reality for some with a range of smart home furniture produced by South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, SK Telecom, and the South Korean furniture manufacturer, Hyundai LivArt. The South Korean smart furniture range is powered by the “Internet of Things” technology, and includes items of furniture that feature touch screen surfaces and are able to connect to the network. So you can use the furniture in your home to browse the internet without having to get your phone out for every little thing you do. Your phone can go back to being mobile, as was its intended purpose. But while you’re sitting in the comfort of your own home, on your sofa or lying in your bed, you can use the environment around you to browse the internet and communicate online as you would on your phone.
The downside to all of this though is that smart furniture still needs to be connected to a power source… When, oh when, will we finally eliminate the need for cables altogether!
We have already paved the path forward with multi-functional furniture in recent decades, and I expect that we will only continue down this path, including digital uses into the functions of our furniture. Touchscreen control panels and monitors on every surface, speakers concealed into our furniture so that we may play our music wherever we are in the home, lamps and lightbulbs that give us the ability to choose the brightness and colours we use to illuminate each room. Perhaps even one day the colour of our wall and furniture themselves, with LEDs fitted beneath a translucent, or maybe even perhaps transparent, upholstery. We will be able to interact with every aspect of our home, both in design and function. These aren’t things that we have yet to invent; these are merely things that have yet to gain ground on a wider consumer scale.
Samsung has already created their Transparent Smart Window.
Smart furniture will change everything about the way we live and perceive the world around us. Imagine smart mirrors of the future. Mirrors that aren’t actually mirrors but “smart mirrors” that reflect a digital image of yourself for you to virtually experiment with clothing, hairstyles and other aspects of your appearance, whilst still allowing you to turn and pose and admire yourself in the mirror how you would expect to usually with a traditional glass mirror. Maybe for fun, there would even be mirror apps that allow you to see yourself as different monsters or creatures!
We’ve seen how smart phones have completely taken over the world in the past few years, now dominating everything that we do. It’s actually crazy how fast we all took to it like a duck to water. I expect that we will adapt even quicker to smart mirrors, smart windows, smart sofas…. smart furniture.