Microsoft’s 1999 vision for a smart home was a creative look into the future. What technological advances came true?

In 1999, Microsoft crafted its vision for a smart home on Retirement television. One family performed on a typical afternoon and evening at the home, taking advantage of all its cool tech features for almost every activity imaginable. While not all of the advancements came to fruition exactly as shown, many of them exist in some form today.

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It’s fun to watch the segment on the home of Microsoft or revisit movies like the one on the Disney Channel. Smart House showing the dark side of artificial intelligence in a home environment. Google Home and Alexa have proven that home voice technology is here to stay. What else did Microsoft correctly predict about smart home capabilities?

9 Planned: managing a door with facial recognition

The biometric security system that unlocks the gateway into Microsoft's connected home video

Not everyone uses facial recognition widely throughout the home. However, it is quite possible to enable such a system for the front door to unlock, as seen in the 1999 video. Some of the setups are more expensive, but there are also keyless smart door locks. for less than $ 200. These can include night vision and a facial recognition log. Data collection is a potential concern with more widespread facial recognition in home security products, but some homeowners have embraced biometric security as a safe way to keep unwanted intruders out. It still helps to have multiple functions in one device to look and unlock the door.

8 Missed the mark: scanning food products in the refrigerator / garbage to buy food

A woman littering next to an image of the GeriCan garbage barcode scanner

When the mother in the Microsoft video starts making her shopping list, she scans the barcode on a box of eggs on the refrigerator and the word “eggs” is automatically written on her list. You can also throw away an empty item so it is instantly detected and added to your work list. While they are creative and not unfamiliar, these methods are a bit strange and have yet to take off.

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Adults use technology to keep track of their purchases, but they open the refrigerator and scan the products (or let the garbage can scan them) might not be the preferred way. In the time it takes to do that, a person could simply talk about their dietary needs to a voice assistant like Siri (or Astro, the one in the video). Another reason why the scanning method is not the most common is that people may not want the exact same products from week to week, so it might not always make sense to scan them.

7 Planned: smart appliances throughout the home

Smart appliances throughout the home from 1999 were a good prediction. The stove in the Microsoft video can send notifications to other devices with cooking updates. Kitchens have quickly become a prime location for smart technology. More and more touchscreen refrigerators are being advertised, along with stoves that can be connected to smart devices to control the temperature. Smart washers and dryers can also be controlled via apps, and this technology shows no signs of slowing down.

6 Planned: Keeping up with the family via GPS tracking

IPhone app tracking

GPS tracking is shown in the 1999 segment when the mother wants to see where her husband is. As you travel home from work, its exact location is easy to find on the kitchen computer. Then the spouses can have a phone conversation, just in time for Dad to pick up more garlic for dinner. Smartphones have offered similar features for years, and users are in charge of how they want to set up location tracking with themselves and their loved ones. Technology has also proven helpful in the event of a lost smartphone.

5 Missed the mark: letting strangers leave a message outside

One of the most troubling parts of the 90s smart home is the fact that anyone can leave a message for the owner outside with that fingerprint / facial recognition system. By pressing the button to leave the message, a stranger can record whatever comes to mind. This feature can be fun for close friends, but not so much fun for people the owner doesn’t even know. The door messages are finally a viable option with products like the Ring doorbell paired with Alexa, but the idea is still a bit creepy.

4 Planned: schedules, lists, online communications

schedule send on android

Computer-savvy people have had ways of making schedules on their devices for decades, and Microsoft accurately highlighted future use of that skill. The mother in the video uses her kitchen computer to check the family’s schedule and can send a note to her daughter, who carries a pocket PC with her and can send a quick reply. Online communications via text and voice technology have grown by leaps and bounds over time, and video reminds viewers how embedded those capabilities are in everyday life now.

3 Missed the mark: Checking the time on the “web phone”

1999 web phone used as a smart device

One of the funniest parts of the video is when Dad looks at the weather forecast on a “web phone.” The gadget is a hybrid between a tablet and a home phone, and is another way to control the security system.

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In an age when not everyone has a landline anymore, the web phone seems more outdated than anything else. It’s a fun, retro keepsake for people who now use their smartphones to open the weather app when they need it.

two Planned: control everything from one device

An image of a lighted living room next to an image of someone using a tablet to control their lighting.

Controlling your home settings on a smart device is the heart of the 1999 smart home. The convenience of keeping everything together in one easy-to-use interface cannot be overstated, and it’s interesting to find that tech makers felt that way so long ago. . For example, mom can adjust the home’s heating, air, and ventilation from the comfort of her PC. You can even preset the lighting to your liking so it’s ready to go when you get home from work. After a long day, it’s nice to be able to sit back and relax with all those controls just one click away.

1 Provided: electronic devices for night reading

While dad checks his web phone, mom enjoys reading a book on her wireless e-reader. Standalone e-readers like the Kindle and Nook gained popularity in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Those devices still exist and work, but many people have simply carried over the e-reader model to their phones and tablets. Nook, Kindle, and other reading apps help transport people to all kinds of worlds through the power of reading. The visionary smartphone shows how dependent people today are on home technologies. Reading a book, writing a list, and sending a note are all possible without a pencil or paper (although some people still love those reliable tools).

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