Household objects are becoming smart, helpful companions rather than just utilitarian products, and the more adaptive and intuitive they become, the more our affection for them grows. Dyson knew this from the start when they made vacuuming a positive emotional experience, and later when they invented the precursor to Google Glass.
While they're known for powerful suction beasts like the DC65 upright vacuum and sleek bladeless fans, rumor has it the company's designers and inventors could be working behind-the-scenes to infuse this timeless insight into futuristic genius: robotics. But until Dyson reveals what they're cooking up in their new top secret Robotics Laboratory, here are a few innovations that are following Dyson's lead and transforming our everyday objects into full-blown gadget crushes.
The New Communication
They say the key to a healthy relationship is communication — apparently this holds true for both humans and the gadgets we hold dear. Savvy appliances, like the robotic designs featured in the MoMA exhibit "Talk to Me," communicate with one another and with us, monitoring how we use them via embedded sensors, and sending helpful alerts and reminders to our smartphones.
Nest's smart thermostat, for instance, learns just when it should be kicking in or turning off. The more you use it, the better it gets at determining your preferred temperature. And because the Nest Thermostat keeps your house cozy without wasting energy, you'll save you a few bucks on your monthly energy bill. You can even remotely adjust temperature when you're away from home, using a companion app. (Now, if only you could train your roommate to be so intuitive about your ideal apartment temperature.)
Ever find yourself at the grocery store desperately trying to remember your fridge's inventory? Quirky's Wi-Fi-enabled egg tray connects to an app that lets you know how many eggs you have left and how fresh they are. And it has a light sensor that goes on when you open the fridge door, highlighting which egg has been sitting in your fridge the longest.
Milkmaid, another Quirky product, is designed to save you from the horror that is sour milk. This high-tech milk jug is decked out with pH and temperature sensors that determine how long your milk has been in the fridge and whether it's gone sour. An LED mounted at the base of the vessel displays the milk's status as its freshness decreases. And thanks to Milkmaid's weight sensor and radioactive connectivity, it can even text you when it's running low, so you can avoid the unpleasant surprise of pouring chunky milk into your cereal.
If These Walls Could Talk
As our devices become more responsive, the AI operating systems of hipster sci-fi rom-coms are approaching reality. Remote technology that leverages Wi-Fi allows us to interact with our objects from afar, helping our houses predict what we'll need and want when we get back to the homestead.
One company is giving your home the power to welcome guests all by itself. The August Smart Lock eliminates the hassle of searching for spare keys for guests, not to mention getting locked out of your house. It lets you unlock your door and issue visitor access remotely, banishing the old (and unsafe!) method of storing an extra set of keys under the doormat.
For those who harbor pipe dreams of employing a butler, Doorbot is a slightly more realistic alternative. This Wi-Fi-enabled doorbell is equipped with a camera that lets you scope out visitors by beaming a live video directly to your phone. Depending on who's knocking, you can decide whether to interact with an invited guest remotely, or evade a chatty neighbor by pretending you're not home. And yes, you can call it Jeeves.
Our objects aren't just learning what we need, they're also helping us get what we want. By harnessing the power of algorithms, responsive devices are learning to predict and satisfy our personal preferences.
Cone, a gorgeous wireless speaker, uses an algorithm to figure out what you like and predict the music you want to listen to. Simply give the base a spin to hear a song that suits your taste. Think of Cone as that hip friend who introduces you to a new band before it blows up, but doesn't judge your underground music naivety (or try to crash on your couch).
Another innovation making use of interaction design is Intel's debut into wearables, Smart Earbuds. These headphones monitor your body's movements and vitals so that when your heartbeat is lagging during a workout, it plays music more energizing music. It's like having a personal trainer who DJs on the side.
When James Dyson ditched the bag and created a transparent filtering system for his vacuum, he not only turned a chore into a visually stimulating experience, he also revolutionized the mechanics of vacuuming by using centrifugal force to improve their suction capabilities. Combining those same mechanics with passion for more sustainable practices, Dyson created some early tech prototypes that would have made any enviro-friendly gadget junkie giddy.
One such prototype was the "Diesel Trap" a device that used cyclone technology to filter out pollutants from diesel car engines. Another fresh concept from Dyson applies the company's signature suction approach to a larger issue: water pollution. The MV Recyclone barge could potentially rove rivers and oceans, extracting plastic detritus and dirty debris from the water. While these are just green concepts, they still serve as guiding inspiration for other innovative companies following Dyson's lead, and seeking to transform our houses into These days, new products are following Dyson's lead, transforming our houses into purified environments.
Tech-enabled filtering systems are becoming involved in everything from wallpaper to showers. Saratech Permasorb Wallpaper is embedded with thousands of tiny spherical absorbers with a functionality comparable to human lungs. The passages within the absorbers suck and store chemical pollutants, purifying the air we breathe.
Reveeco's EcoVéa is a shower filtration system that sorts and treats water — it drains away dirty water so you can reuse clean water for your next shower. This and other cleansing gadgets like Greenhood— a kitchen range hood that eliminates odors and sanitizes the surrounding air — are transforming homes into self-cleaning organisms.
Dyson's team of engineers still leads the pack of household appliance innovators. The DC65 Animal includes a remodeled airflow and new brush design that improves brushbar power by 25%. Like its predecessors, the DC65 has beauty and brains worth committing to. Head here to learn more about Dyson's fleet of innovative appliances.
Kristina Loring is an independent radio producer, writer, and digital strategist living in San Francisco. She loves exploring the hidden design in cities and riding a bicycle away from tech epicenters toward the sea.