Can’t see it, can’t hear it

Plenty has been written about robot vacuum cleaners, fridges that tell you you’re greedy, and kettles connected via broadband wireless networks to the internet. Many of these innovations are like the fantastic machines depicted in the sketches of Heath Robinson; they use technology because it’s there. And, rather than making our lives easier, simple tasks like figuring out how to turn on the television are now abstruse.

In an effort to prevent us going down this frustrating road, London-based product designer PDD has come up with a concept for a futuristic shower where cutting-edge technologies are deployed so seamlessly that the user forgets they’re even there.

The ablution of the future goes something like this. A fingerprint recognition system on the door handle alerts the shower to your pre-set preferences – water temperature, power, musical taste, etc. A sensor plate in the floor weighs you and calculates your fat content, and a 3D body scanner uses lasers mounted in the shower heads to map out your body and identify any changes, however small. All the while, the curved plasma screen which surrounds you allows you to take your shower anywhere from the beaches of the Bahamas to the barren wasteland of the Kalahari desert. Then, to save on your laundry bills, the shower heads gently dry you off with jets of warm air whilst delivering a relaxing aromatherapy session.

While this is purely at the concept level, a prototype of the `Bodywash’ system did appear recently at the Ideal Home Exhibition, and the idea has generated keen interest in the leisure industry. According to PDD, one hotel even mistakenly asked how much the system costs.

Also, crucially, every aspect of the technology for the concept already exists: scales which measure fat content by passing a small electrical current through the body are available in the shops and the prototype of the shower is already equipped with a laser scanning system designed by London outfit Avatarme. This system is currently also in show in the millennium dome, where visitors can scan their bodies, upload the information onto the web, and use their Avatars in computer games like Quake.

What PDD would like now, says David Humphries – the company’s director of design strategy – is for interested parties from different disciplines to come forward and sponsor a prototype.

PDD’s vision of the future also envisages a house where the whole indoor environment is closely monitored and regulated by a powerful central computer. But won’t there be times when we’re sick to death of a computer house pre-empting our every need and mood requirement? Of course, laughs Hughes, but the house will probably sense this from your biorhythms and turn itself off before you get a chance.

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