Many of the tasks that would have required us to leave our homes 10 years ago we can now achieve without leaving our desks. From printing high-resolution pictures to ordering patio furniture, many of our tasks have been made easier with the help of computers and other technology. The next logical step in home technology is the ability to have a greater level of customization of the objects in our homes. Right now this type of technology is creating simple items, like stands and replacement parts, but in the future these could become more complex, such as connecting everything to your home network. Consider the following:
Raspberry Pi and Microcomputing
Once computers shrunk down enough to fit in our hands, it was only a matter of time before they spread to just about everything. Everything from a lightbulb to your refrigerator can and probably does have a computer in it. But these products have very specialized functions that can’t be adjusted by the user outside of the parameters that were established by the manufacturer.
This is where microcomputers like the Raspberry Pi come in. Raspberry Pi and Arduino are tiny circuit board computers that users can program to do just about anything you would want them to. But even if you don’t have the coding experience to write your own programs, thanks to Internet communities, much of this work has already been achieved. Many of these projects involve repurposing older technology to have a continued life rather than just being thrown away. These range from programming lights to turn on at certain times to making wall-mounted monitors that can display family calendars or browse the Internet.
This is made possible due to the tiny nature of these computers. The largest Raspberry Pi, for instance, can be modified to fit inside an Altoid mint can, while the smallest is only about half the size of a credit card and nearly as thin.
If a microcomputer gives you control over how smart your home is, 3-D printing aims to make sure your house has everything you need. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing uses an extruder to put down layers of plastic to build an item. Users can create anything from a book stand to a phone case or anything in between. While consumer grade 3-D printers use plastic, the materials can be just about anything from metal to glass. As the printers get better, the breadth of materials will increase, meaning you can repair parts like o-rings or hinges.
As with microcomputers, the community around 3-D printers has already thought of many common projects. If you’ve ever thought “I need a way to keep these cables organized” or “I need a dock to hold my tablet on my desk” someone else has likely already made those plans and put them out on the Internet for anyone to use. The online community is where projects like these shine because the creative people behind them want to share.
The resolution and speed at which 3-D printers operate is still on the slower side but that is improving with each generation. But right now the democratization of plans and ideas is where the innovation is happening. As the need for more detailed plans and better materials increases, 3-D printer manufacturers are going to upgrade to fulfill that need.
How our homes look and function doesn’t have to be limited by what a big company thinks you need. At this point technology has advanced to the level of only being limited by our own thinking rather than whether or not something is possible.