Peek Inside the Home of the Future

An Indy home-tech expert explains the next wave of life-improving gadgets.
As the next generation of TVs and tech toys debuted this month at the much-watched International Consume Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, we got the Indy-based Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, a trade group representing 3,500 companies around the world, to give us a peek into its crystal ball as to the home of the future:

1. No 3-D glasses required? That’s one selling point of Ultra HDTV, or 4K, when it’s paired with a contrast-improving display called high-dynamic range. Instead of images floating toward you, the display creates depth from the screen backward. “You will feel like you can almost put your hand in [the picture],” says Dave Pedigo, CEDIA’s senior director of learning and emerging technologies.

2. Ultra HD television will require new, compatible streaming devices. Pedigo expects these consoles to include whole-home connectivity, which means you could set your lights to dim automatically every time you watch a movie.

3. Surround sound goes overhead with Dolby Atmos and Auros 3-D, new cinema upgrades that are working their way into the home. “I saw a demo, and it sounded like it was raining on top of you,” Pedigo says. Industry insiders are known to use the term “voice of God” to describe sound from an invisible source above, but divinity isn’t necessary—Ovation Audio/Video Solutions can hook you up.

4. The home version of a fitness band might be a bed mat with sensors that can keep you alive. The technology (available as an out-of-the-box alarm on Amazon) can call or text for help if it doesn’t detect movement after a certain number of hours. Nursing homes are already on board.

5. Want to climb the wall in Game of Thrones? Slip on a mask called Oculus Rift. Facebook is developing this virtual-reality technology that will give gamers a taste of frightening cognitive dissonance. With a mini TV screen for each eye, it fools users into feeling like they have been  transported to the displayed setting. Pedigo flipped out when he tried it a few months ago. “Half my brain was telling me to be careful and not fall, and the other half was saying, I’m standing in a convention center, and I’ll be fine,” he says. “But you might feel like you’re going to die.”

6. A movement called the “Internet of things” means more devices will carry a chip like the one in your Blu-ray player that streams Netflix. Next up: Wi-Fi–enabled lightbulbs and appliances controlled from your cellphone or tablet. Why? Energy consumption, says Pedigo, who envisions a sump pump that texts you when something’s wrong—before it causes water damage. GE’s Link lightbulb is already for sale at Home Depot. (And Jeff Goldblum’s ad for it has gone viral. Hot tub piano!)