Matalan Direct is a big UK online shopping site with a big furniture division; it worked with professional futurist Ian Pearson to develop the 2050 Home Life report, a vision of how we will live 34 years from now. In some ways it doesn’t look very different from the way we live now, but if you read between the lines it is a very different thing, with some very interesting ideas that could lead to a much greener world of transformer furniture, 3D printing, virtual reality and even shipping containerish housing.
The first image is perhaps the lamest, the big screen floating in front of the floor to ceiling glass walls. That’s because we will be doing everything virtually; according to the description in the Mirror,
Tomorrow’s generation will spend less time cooking and cleaning, but more time socialising with their full-resolution life-sized 3D friends, who are only virtually present….VR will substitute some travel allowing people to explore the world and experience the full sensation through virtual environments, within their own home….Dr Pearson predicts that by 2050, 98% of people will also use VR as a means of recreational activity, a change for the 73% of people who currently spend all their leisure time watching 2D TV.
So really, you don’t want floor to ceiling glass with sunlight and distraction, you want a holodeck, a giant blue screen with nothing to distract. You want to be able to dial up the Moroccan sun and heat or the Antarctic dark and cold, so you want solid well-insulated walls, although for all we know, that is what these might be, a projection rather than a window.
The poor Matalan company will be out of business, because nobody will ever need to buy anything new, since if you get bored, you can just change it at will; “ By 2050, fabrics will have the ability to change appearance, colours, patterns and textures enabled by intrinsic smart yarns.”
But that’s just the start. If this actually happens, nobody will need much of anything but an empty box:
…active contact lenses worn in the home will allow people to change their décor frequently, a simply decorated room could look elaborate and luxurious – all this combined will make redecorating an easy everyday option.
Since “Furnishings will often adapt to our body shapes to make us perfectly comfy” we will really only need one piece that morphs from bed to sofa to whatever as required. Our contact lens screens will determine what it looks like and where it is.
We won’t need clothing stores since “A virtual reality mirror could be hanging on your wall, enabling you to 'try' clothes without changing.” Since our friends are all visiting virtually, why bother having any clothes at all? Just dial up the latest virtual wardrobe.
Of course, robots will do all the housework, with “3D printers providing food faster than takeaways.”
If one carries this all to its logical extension, it will all be very green and efficient. If we don’t need windows, then we can design our buildings so differently; we could pack our apartments like shipping containers in a yard, because everyone still has virtual views to die for. If we do all of our visiting virtually, we don’t need to invest in transit or roads or cars, because nobody goes anywhere.
No more flying, because there is no more travelling. (this is happening now; here is a guy trying to be the first to virtually cycle the length of Great Britain, combining exercise with travel. ) No more farming, because we just 3D print our food, building it up from basic chemicals mined by robots.
What a wonderful world it will be.