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Openarch Builds House Of The Future, Filled With Gestural UI's

The "house of the future" video is one of my favorite genres of futurist marketing. Intended to put all this whiz-bang high technology into a comfortable context, it always reveals more about the time it was made than the time it depicts.

When I came across Openarch’s demo video, I was all set to give it the kind of critical treatment that John Pavlus gave Microsoft, except there’s one problem. They’re actually building it.

Openarch is a prototype house and it’s very much a work in progress. It mixes hardware and software elements, combining things like moveable walls, with Kinect-based gestural interfaces. The space is intended to be a place for testing out ideas and products. It’s also someone’s home.

"Our goal is to experiment, but for me the best way to do a real research is trying to build real things," says Ion Cuervas-Mons of Thinkbig Factory. At present, the physical design is fully implemented while the software is at about 20%. The video depicts a combination of current and future applications. Everything that is shown in the video could be implemented with current technology, but "only the gestural interface and the custom wallpaper application are working," says Cuervas-Mons, "There is still a lot of work to be done."

Far from being a lifeless marketing piece, Openarch is a living laboratory. On their site, they invite companies, artists, or organizations to come "evaluate their products and services through the infrastructure and the participation of the house’s inhabitants."

Knowing that Openarch is a testbed completely changes my attitude towards the clearly awkward interactions as depicted. I’m still skeptical about Kinect-based interfaces for physical tasks, but I’m glad someone’s giving them a shot.

If you are in the Boston area, Ion Cuervas-Mons will present the project at Harvard on Monday, February 13. Hat tip to ArchDaily.