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Technology 20 Years After Disney’s Smart House

4 MINUTE READ | June 25, 2019

Technology 20 Years After Disney’s Smart House

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Lauren Resnick

Lauren Resnick has written this article. More details coming soon.

Let’s set the stage and take a trip down memory lane. The year was 1999, and you were enthralled with Furbys, Easy Bake Ovens, slap bracelets, and hip clips. 90s babies, I’m talking to you. A time where the weeks filled with anticipation as you waited for Friday night until your favorite Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) was released.

PAT from Smart House

In this case, I’m referring to what is ranked as one of the top 4 best DCOMs created exactly 20 years ago, Smart House. In short, Insider says “this film revolves around a house that obeys every command, self-cleans, and cooks dinner, until it literally comes to life in the form of an over-possessive, holographic mom.” This original movie, arguably the best DCOM of them all, utilized unheard of and unfathomable technology that was truly ahead of its time.

So twenty years ahead of its time, let’s examine what technology Smart House accurately predicted and how far it’s evolved. While today we live in an age where we might take technology for granted, the 20th anniversary of Smart House reminds us that this wasn’t always the case. How has this Disney Channel Original Movie’s forward-thinking paved the way for future innovations that only seem second nature to this Millennial generation?

20 years ago, Smart House introduced a concept that humans only thought imaginable: a voice assistant. In the movie’s case, the home ran on “personally applied technology” or PAT for short, to answer commands and carry out daily functions. In this day and age, all things are possible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and every other smart assistant out there. Similar to this modern-day technology, Smart House was way ahead of its time, answering commands at the sound of any request. 

In early 1999, smart doorbell cameras were only a mystical idea, dreamt by the creators of Smart House. It wasn’t until around 2012 when Ring first designed the “smart doorbell.” However, the Smart House technology doesn’t stop at visitor detection, as its capabilities span from newspaper delivery and the removal of unwanted visitors. Bet you wish your Ring doorbell could do all of that. 😉 

Clean floors in a matter of seconds seem like a dream. Back in the day, we were stuck with standard vacuum cleaners, mops, and brooms. Ahead of its time, Smart House could actually clean the entire house with one fell swoop. In a flash, PAT cleared all dirt, dust, and debris from the ground. While this technology isn’t quite the case today, the adoption of self-cleaning vacuum cleaners is changing the game. From Dyson to iRobot, brands continue to develop technology and doing the dirty work, so you don’t have to.

Did you know that you can actually program your smart light bulbs and assistance to create a custom routine in the morning (lights, sounds, music, etc.) when you need to wake up? That wasn’t the case in 1999, however, Smart House imagined the technology where it could project any scene or setting at any time.

It seems that there are only similarities that we can draw from modern times and the movie Smart House. For instance, the goal of technology is to make life as simple, convenient, and comfortable as possible. While both the smart house’s “personally applied technology” and modern-day technology typically glitches and malfunctions, they both utilize AI to optimize and get better. Better, and more user-friendly, for the consumer. 

If I’ve learned anything from the movie Smart House, it’s when AI knows you too well; it begins to become more personally invested. So how far is too far and when will enough be enough? While your Google assistant or Amazon Alexa can do just about anything: set reminders, make appointments, or play music at the sound of your voice, they likely won’t throw a party at your house or even come to life (we hope). While not everything in Smart House has come to fruition, the movie included some frighteningly accurate technological advances.

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It’s safe to say that as a society, we’ve come a long way since the movie was first released in 1999 — technology and AI are on the rise, with no signs of stopping. Smart House was a pioneer of future technology, now let’s hope that the modern-day series Black Mirror doesn’t share that same fortune.

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