The House of the Future
Smart new world from the computer
How can a model home for smart living and working continually keep pace with the development of technology? Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has come up with the answer in a house of the future. This virtual home is part of a project known as Create the Future, which has created a digital world for presenting technologies from the present, as well as the near and distant future in an everyday setting.
The house of the future: Just a digital fantasy? Not at all! The structure with its three futuristic-looking cubes interlocked with one another was not built by construction workers but was instead created with bits and bytes on a computer. Nevertheless, the technology in this virtual house of the future offers a practical insight into the solutions for smart living and working that already exist today, as well as a preview of those of the near and distant future.
“We can work flexibly with the objects and are thus able to incorporate new technologies at any time.“
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
“Create the Future — The World of Tomorrow”
is the full name of this digital space in which Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is presenting applications that are based primarily on LC and OLED technologies. Highlights here include large, ultra-thin interactive screens and transparent displays, new types of light sources, and windows that change their color and light transmittance at the push of a button. Next to this house of the future with its attractive flat design is a swimming pool shining in clear blue. The pool is shaded by a structure made of technical textiles, which also generate energy thanks to flexible photovoltaic elements.
A flexible look at a house of the future
Much of what can be viewed in the digital world will not appear on the market until several years from now. It therefore only makes sense that the company’s demonstration model for presenting the way we will live our lives in the future was not built on a real plot of land but was instead created in the virtual world. This approach is also farsighted because, as all experts agree, the residential and office buildings of the future will be smart, interactive and efficient. In view of the fast pace of development in this sector, it would have been extremely difficult to ensure that such a visionary structure made out of stone and steel, glass and plaster could always be kept up to date. After all, even the most modern house of the future, along with its high-tech systems, would begin to become outdated immediately after its completion.
Dragana Cubrilovic-Radelic is the head of Innovation Strategy within the Technology Office Chemicals at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
© Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany
“It is very important for us to be able to work flexibly and dynamically with the objects we are presenting in order to be able to incorporate new technologies anytime,” says Dragana Cubrilovic-Radelic, who holds a PhD in Chemistry and is head of Innovation Strategy within the Technology Office Chemicals at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Cubrilovic-Radelic managed the project up until it was launched on the Internet.
The adjustments she refers to range from the expansion of existing scenarios to the development of entirely new digital worlds. Create the Future currently features around 50 applications made possible by high-tech chemicals and materials from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Along with LC and OLED technologies, these also include decorative and effect pigments, photovoltaic technology, and integrated circuit materials, all of which are used in various applications.
A new dimension of mobility
A second component of this digital world is a car that features optimized interaction between vehicle systems and the driver and passengers. Just as the house recalls education and research buildings, the car includes current concepts for electrically powered and networked driving that will be emerging from the lab and moving onto the road over the next few years.
Create the Future — The World of Tomorrow
This virtually constructed object is displayed as a 360-degree panorama and highlights, for example, the huge potential that liquid crystals and OLEDs offer for the many different displays in the car of the future, as well as for vehicle lighting systems. It also features new kinds of photovoltaic elements that generate some of the electricity required to run the complex vehicle electronics and the electric drive system.
Some of the things experienced by those who visit the House of the Future or “take a ride” in the research vehicle already exist today. For example, the liquid crystal windows
that change color at the push of a button can already be found in buildings such as the modular Innovation Center at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The large window surfaces that have been transformed into a light source by OLED technology, however, do not yet exist in such a form in the real world, says Cubrilovic-Radelic. It is precisely this combination of existing technology on the one hand and innovative concepts to come on the other that makes the 360-degree tours of the virtual house and car so interesting.
Building houses with digital bricks
“Create the Future” is an interactive presentation platform that researchers are using, within the context of everyday situations, to highlight the innovative solutions the company is working on. The platform can be accessed via a normal browser.
According to Cubrilovic-Radelic, some of the steps in the development process for the platform were actually similar to what occurs in real house construction: “At the beginning, the draft plan for the house of the future was much smaller, but then a child’s bedroom was added and a bedroom for the parents — the design phase was almost as exciting as building a real house.” The big difference here has to do with the ease and elegance with which the virtual property can be altered. Whereas in real life, this requires masons, electricians, and painters, the intelligent house in Create the Future can be changed easily with just a few mouse clicks. In this way, without any noise or dirt, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany can create new spaces for presenting the technologies that will shape the way we live and work in the future.
A communication component may also soon be added to this virtual world, which can currently only be visited but which in the future might also include a virtual forum for the exchange of ideas between customers, experts, and researchers.