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Tomorrow’s Home – new museum exhibition explores the future of domesticity

University College London (UCL) and The Liminal Space have created Tomorrow’s Home: an interactive, multisensory exhibition set in 2050 launching at the Museum of the Home this weekend.

“Live in the home of tomorrow… today!’ said a pennant-decorated billboard in 1955 to advertise the new housing development of Lyon Estates, where the McFly family in Back to the Future would live 30 years later.

Not much is different when we see the home of 1985 but when we are transported to 2015, we are introduced to phone glasses, video calls, biometrics: doors with fingerprint recognition, tablets, a food hydrator and a Mr Fusion Home Energy Reactor, which used waste to power the DeLorean. Quite a heady mixture for the cinema goer of 1989 when the film was released.

What technology will we see in the house of 2050?

Now, apart from the home energy reactor (which would really help households reduce their carbon footprint), we have pretty much all the above in the 21st century home. But what new technology would the house of 2050 hope to feature? And would it be able to support our health, our communities and our planet in 2050?

The Tomorrow’s Home exhibition aims to give an insight into this future setting using academic research and a bit of creative flair.

With the help of design consultancy The Liminal Space, visitors to the free exhibition will step inside a home 30 years from now that is inhabited by three very different people.

Key themes and talking toilets

Could the home of 2050 include manmade meat?

Key themes of climate change, an ageing population and digital automation are explored through a series of imagined household objects and fictional future services inspired by cutting edge research from the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering.

From a talking toilet to living wallpaper that analyses the household’s mood, the exhibition employs interactive design and immersive storytelling to breathe life into the technologies and social trends that are set to radically transform the way we live.

Possible dilemmas Tomorrow’s Home – the home of 2050 – may create:

  • Would you prefer to snack on perfectly optimised ‘smart’ food or host healthy microbes on your wallpaper?
  • What if your toilet could detect early health problems, but also tell your partner you were having an affair?
  • Would you let an AI host a tea party for your favourite deceased relative?
  • Would you offer living space to a climate change refugee?
  • And with smart sensors installed across the home, how will you ever disconnect?

The exhibition encourages visitors to reflect on their own comfort level and appetite for new technology and tell researchers and designers what they want their home of the future to be like.

“The inspiration for the exhibition stems from real research going on at UCL,” Professor Rebecca Shipley, Director, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, said. “Academics here are at the forefront of advances in artificial intelligence, 3D-printing, nano-sensing and other innovations that will shape the future of our lives. Tomorrow’s Home brings this research to life in a dynamic way that showcases the latest innovations in this area while inspiring wider conversations about how our homes might better support and improve our health and wellbeing in the future.”

Wider conversation

Tomorrow’s Home hopes to engage with visitors so they can join a wider conversation on how these technological changes might affect us, taking in issues such as privacy, data collection and management and the impact of fully automated homes on local community connections.

UCL and The Liminal Space hope that through these conversations they can provoke new questions and engage new voices into ongoing research into the future of the home.

Sarah Douglas, (Director of public engagement consultancy The Liminal Space), explains the design thinking behind the exhibition: “The exhibition highlights both the benefits of emerging technology as well as raising important ethical questions: What belongs inside our homes and what do we want to leave at the door? We have used imaginative design and speculative storytelling to bring these complexities to life and encourage audiences to think more deeply about what matters to them in the home of the future.”

Programme of activities

An programme of talks and activities where members of the public can meet specialists from the UCL community will accompany the exhibition. From robotic Christmas carolling workshops, to a webinar about the future of smart devices, see the full programme in the notes to editors section below, and on the UCL website.

“Technology is transforming homes all over the world and it is no surprise it will continue to have an impact on our homes in the future,” Vanessa Meade, (Curator, Museum of the Home) said.The exhibition focuses not on technology that can tell us when to order more milk, but on how health technologies in the home could have a real and lasting impact on the way we live in the future – while also considering the cost to our privacy. All based on leading academic research, it is a fascinating insight into how our homes could look in the future.”

The project is a recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Ingenious Award.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 20 November 2021, and closes on Sunday 9 January 2022. Free, timed tickets can be booked on the Museum of the Home website.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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