Digital technology has already transformed the way we communicate, but what will the impact be on the future of our homes? Design author Bradley Quinn investigates a brave new world of digitally powered design
Imagine a time when interiors are intelligent and architecture thinks for you. When housework no longer exists and the rooms around you anticipate your every need. When shopping for products is a thing of the past, because virtually everything you need can be manufactured at home and uniquely suited to the environment you make it for. The walls and surfaces around you will change colour and pattern at the flick of a switch, or reconfigure altogether when you download new design templates online. The wow factor will really kick in when the objects you hold reshape themselves to become easier to handle. The furniture you sit on will slowly change proportions to make you more comfortable, while the smells, sounds, colours and textures surrounding you stimulate your senses and boost your mood. Damaged things will repair themselves, and surfaces will be self-polishing – so no cleaning required. Worn-out products will simply replicate new versions of themselves or quietly biodegrade when their sell-by date expires.
This future is getting closer, and it is underpinned by digital technology. In some ways it has already arrived. Today’s designers use digital software to create interactive interfaces, smart textiles, micro-electric circuitry and intelligent objects, or even make whole rooms change shape. One of the most compelling examples is the ‘Slow Furl’ interactive wall system from Danish designers Mette Ramsgard Thomsen and Karin Bech. Made with robotic technologies and soft, flexible materials, it interacts with people, creating contours around the body when they sit or lie down.