The Reconfigurable House, how to remain smarter than your house.

The Reconfigurable House

Have you ever dreamt of going home after a long day at work and being able to change the colour of your walls according to your mood? Well, this is what the Reconfigurable House 2.0 will allow you to do. The interactive installation by Adam Somlai-Fischer,
Ai Hasegawa, Barbara Jasinowicz, Bengt Sjölén, Gabor Papp, Tamás Szakál and Usman Haque, is an environment constructed from thousands of low tech components that can be “rewired” by users. It is not the traditional ‘smart house’ that acts on your behalf, cooking the meal while you are having a hot bath.
Devices constructed from hacked low tech toys and gadgets are everywhere. There is a wall made of Cat bricks that meow when you stroke them. And if you raise your eyes up you’ll see a ceiling with small penguins flashing their eyes. There is no need to water plants here because the flowers are LED lilies that change colour when touched. Mist Lasers replace more predictable scented candles to warm the ambient, responding to breath and movements.
All these low tech components can be reconfigured by visitors with a simple touch screen interface. Each specific performance or reaction is associated to a different input or interaction and if the House is left alone for too long with no user interaction, it gets bored, daydreams and reconfigures itself! Compared with traditional ‘smart houses’ that limit people’s decision making by being pre-set by engineers, the Reconfigurable House can be endlessly re-invented by its inhabitant. The authors have revisited the ‘smart house’ concept in a pro-active way to keep the technology user friendly and the attention focused on people making decisions.
The software used is constructed with Processing, and Arduino, an inexpensive micro-controller, controls the electronics. All code used on the project is open source.
By using Arduino, Usman Haque is extending his research from the boundaries of the house to the entire world. Pachube (pronounced “patch bay”) is a web service available that enables people to tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices and spaces around the world. Pachube acts between environments to capture input data (from remote sensors) and serve output data (to remote actuators). Connections can be made between any two environments, facilitating even spontaneous or previously unplanned interactions.
So with the amazing developments in our future lifestyles will users always remain smarter than technology and more importantly will they remain smarter than their own homes?