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[ISN] Microsoft showcases home wired to Internet
From: William Knowles (wkC4I.ORG)
Date: Thu Jul 27 2000 - 04:29:32 CDT
[Makes you wonder what happens when your house bluescreens... -WK]
Posted at 10:20 p.m. PDT Tuesday, July 25, 2000
BY KRISTI HEIM
Mercury News Seattle Bureau
REDMOND, Wash. -- It looks into your eyes, turns on soft lights and
mood music, and responds to commands.
It teaches piano, helps do the grocery shopping and keeps an eye on
Microsoft Corp.'s home of the future does just about everything but
let the cat out and tuck you into bed.
The Microsoft Home is not a real home, at least not yet. It's a wing
of the Executive Briefing Center at the company's Redmond campus full
of ``smart'' appliances and gadgets wired to the Internet, designed to
showcase what the company calls ``better living through technology.''
It may be years before any of the products shown in the home are
available or affordable for most consumers, but Microsoft uses the
home to test new concepts and sell the promise of technology.
While rivals are opening demonstration homes of their own to show off
their products, Microsoft hopes to convince electronics manufacturers
and others that the software it builds will become the platform of
choice to connect the plethora of gadgets and provide the interface
for home owners to operate them.
The Microsoft Home originally opened in 1995, but occupied an obscure
place in the company's research division. Microsoft expanded the home
and moved it to a prominent spot earlier this year as part of a new
focus on consumer electronics software.
Arriving late to the Internet and wireless arena, Microsoft wants to
demonstrate that the software it writes can run personal computers and
the networks that connect all kinds of devices through the Internet
without a personal computer.
In the company's vision of our new wired world, better living is about
entertainment, convenience and security. Step up to the front door
``kiosk'' and an iris scanner reads the eye to determine a person's
identity and grant people it recognizes entry. In case there's no one
at home, guests can leave personal messages at the door to forward to
the owner's e-mail account.
Jonathan Cluts, a bespectacled tour guide clad in a navy blue blazer
and khakis, leads visitors through the house he oversees as group
program manager in Microsoft's prototyping team.
Technology that recognizes people will eventually replace keys, he
said. The system could be set to let the house cleaner in only on
Wednesdays, or the friends from out of town only in for the week
they're visiting, Cluts said.
``There's an explosion of creativity around adding new ideas to
familiar devices like the door or the piano,'' he said.
Walk inside, punch a button on a Pocket PC pad, and a ``welcome home''
program begins, with lights and music set to the occasion.
The idea behind it is a central network that connects all the devices
in the home to each other and to the Internet. This allows the
computer in the bedroom, for example, to play music from the stereo in
the living room, or for parents to take a peek into their kids'
bedrooms to check on them from the office.
The home's high-tech security system allows its residents to see
what's happening in each room through miniature cameras. Since the
home network is also connected to the Internet, they could view those
rooms remotely, from office computers, for instance.
The reach of this kind of technology can pose a whole new set of
privacy questions. Inside the home, the Microsoft team envisioned a
series of commands like ``make private'' mode, where people outside
the room couldn't peek in.
Still, the response from visitors to the cameras has been mixed, said
Suze Woolf, a Microsoft manager who has given tours of the home since
its inception. Microsoft evaluates visitor responses in planning what
kinds of consumer technologies to develop.
``I've had people who are just horrified by the idea, and some people
who really love the idea,'' she said.
Technology in the home, like in other places, may take some time
getting used to, she said. ``There's a slightly stunned look when
people leave,'' she said. Ultimately, ``some people will adopt it and
"Communications without intelligence is noise;
Intelligence without communications is irrelevant."
Gen. Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
C4I Secure Solutions http://www.c4i.org
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