In the Disney Channel original movie "Smart House," a virtual assistant named Pat, played by Katey Segal, controlled everything in the automated house. Years later, it's interesting to see the smart-home technologies that actually made it to the mainstream.
The Disney Channel original movie "Smart House," about a family that moves into a "house of the future" run by a built-in virtual assistant named Pat, was way ahead of its time.
When it came out almost two decades ago, the world was still trying to figure out how to address the Y2K bug, and people had few of the technologies in their houses that we use today. There were no smart devices (let alone smartphones), dial-up modems were the norm, and candy-colored Apple desktop computers were all the rage.
The fictitious "Smart House" was a little far-fetched, sure, but it did get some things right.
Here are the technologies from the 1999 movie "Smart House" that we have now, almost 20 years later:
The centerpiece of "Smart House," and today's smart homes, is an AI-powered smart assistant that learns more about its owners over time.
Pat also pricked your finger to learn your entire medical history and figured out your diet based on your breath, so she knew a little too much.
In "Smart House," the family relied on voice-powered smart assistant to delegate tasks — which is almost exactly how it works today.
This is the overarching similarity, of course. Pat, voiced by Katey Segal, is a smart assistant like Alexa or Google Home. A notable difference is that the house in the movie is run by a control room and a circuit board instead of a speaker or system of speakers. And by the end of the movie, Pat could appear as a hologram; thankfully, Alexa and Siri can't sneak up on us in the same way.
Both "Smart House" and today's smart-home devices support voice commands for controlling the temperature in your home.
When asked "Pat, what's the current temperature, please?" Pat responded, "Climate control on target at 72.5 degrees."
Asking an intercom system to relay messages around the house for you is something you can actually do today.
Both Google Home and Amazon Echo devices have the ability to broadcast your voice to any of the other smart-speakers connected in your house (except for the Echo or Home you're using to make the command).
Today's AI assistants, like the AI in "Smart House," can make random selections and decisions based on your requests.
Pat shuffles through the contestants to choose a winner for the house similar to the way today's smart assistants can be asked to make decisions: by flipping a coin, rolling dice, playing rock paper scissors, randomly choosing a number, and so on.
Smart-home devices can send messages to your contacts without needing to pick up a device.
Smart devices can turn your lights on and off — or even dim, or turn on colored lighting — without making you get up, using just your voice.
Smart-home devices can also play music based on the mood you ask for.
Today's smart homes can create personalized alarms to wake you up.
Your smart devices can even make sure your coffee is ready when you are.
Like "Smart House," smart homes can even keep your pet occupied while you're busy.
Today's PetTech includes automatic feeders, automated fetch for your dog, laser pointers for your cat, and even treadmills or exercise wheels.
Of course, we can make video calls at home now.
And there are plenty of motion-controlled video games with full-body interactivity.
When you're playing sports on a Wii console, there's not a physical ball that disappears into a wall and appears on the other side, though. Because that's magic.
"Smart House" even had a wall that doubled as a TV. Samsung this year introduced a similar product, called "The Wall," at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.
Today's smart homes can clean your floors without making you lift a finger.
Our floors might not absorb liquids (or solids), but connected robot vacuum cleaners can take care of crumbs and dust.
"Smart House" also correctly predicted automatic locks on your doors for safety.
These days, though, the locks are controlled by you, and (spoiler alert) not to hold you hostage the way hologram Pat did before she realized that not being human meant she could never be the Cooper kids' mother.
"Smart House" could do a lot of things that our houses still can't do — and will probably never be able to do — but it's fun to realize the ways in which one decade's fiction can turn into another decade's reality.