Remember the Jetsons?
The animated series created in 1962 to depict life in 2062 still has a few decades to get real.
Oh, you've got your Roomba sweeper, your no-pooper-scooper-needed robotic pooch, refrigerators with built in LCD panels to view recipes and family photos and new technology that will call the cops and dim the lights.
But for most of us, the PC-TV-movie-music connection -- broadband and wireless Internet and on-demand cable and satellite TV -- with some cell phone and iPod access, is about as futuristic as it gets.
Real life renditions of the Jetsons' antics are pretty much still on the drawing board.
The refrigerator still won't shop for food nor prepare it. The dishwasher won't load and unload. The vacuum refuses to sweep the floor unless it's, well, pushed. And if we misplace the remote we still have to get up off our duffs and flip on the TV.
Technology has yet to really take the drudgery out of common household chores and it may never be up to the task.
But that's not stopping the Continental Automated Buildings Association's (CABA), Internet Home Alliance.
The conglomeration of consumer product and technology companies is still tinkering around in laboratory kitchens and other rooms to make life at home easier.
Right now, they are building an "intelligent" laundry that won't put the clothes in the washer and dryer nor take them out, but it will link them to your home network.
Why are Whirlpool Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Panasonic and Procter & Gamble spending big R&D bucks to put the spin cycle on your flat panel?
To simplify and save time on a task you could probably train a chimpanzee to do for a lot less money?
"Generally, most people tend to 'batch' their laundry -- washing and drying at the same time -- and they stay home during the hours it takes to manage the laundry process," said Carol Priefert, from Whirlpool.
"Whirlpool research shows that the average consumer 'batches' about six and a half loads one day per week, while heavy users may 'batch' as many as 15 loads. Laundry Time will test ways to make it easier for people to manage the process remotely or while doing other things around the home," she said in a prepared statement.
It's "Laundry Time," the futuristic moniker the whiz kids have tacked onto a test program now showing in select Atlanta homes. Simply put, it lets your laundry bug you no matter where you are -- in the living room, board room, school room or asylum.
Here's some Laundry Time scenarios offered by the technology geniuses at the alliance:
- Let's say you decide to start the laundry and settle down with the family to watch TV. Thirty minutes later, an alert pops up on your TV screen saying, "Wash Complete." You put the load in the dryer and fill up the washer again -- even without being told. When the dryer cycle is complete, your TV show is interrupted again with "Dryer Done" or some such. You'll never forget your laundry, even if you wanted to.
- Now, you are about to surf the Net, but when you start up your browser, an Instant Message reminds you to turn on the dryer. Duh. Apparently, as you put wet clothes in the dryer, you forgot why. It happens. Laundry Time asks if you would like to start the cycle and with a click of your mouse the dryer is off and tumbling, without you ever leaving your seat.
- This time, you are running errands and a cell phone alert tells you the dryer stopped. So you quickly cell phone message the dryer to fluff the load for another 15 minutes. No more wrinkles. Forget that most of today's washable fabrics are also wrinkle resistant. Also forget that home safety experts say you should never leave home when major appliances are running.
Why not just reconfigure those simple sensor-triggered beepers/buzzers that alert you when your clothes are done, to alert you when it senses a load just sitting -- say after 15 minutes? If technology factories can make your washer and dryer call you, reengineering sensors should be a snap.
The alliance says its research shows convenience-minded consumers want these kind of notices and alerts beamed from their laundry to their TVs, computers and cell phones.
"This project gives us an opportunity to see how connected technology solutions can help simplify people's lives so they can spend more time with their family and friends," said Jonathan Cluts, director of the Consumer and Prototyping team at Microsoft Corporation, in a prepared statement.
Next up? Lawns that send growth progress reports.