Everyday Experiments: Redefining Technology in the Home

17.06.204 min read

Everyday Experiments is our ongoing series of digital experiments with IKEA which challenge the role of technology in the home. What it can help us with, and how much fun can we have with it.

It aims to take the everyday and make it extraordinary.

How can technology redefine life at home?

When we think of “home,” technology is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. IKEA and SPACE10’s Everyday Experiments is a way of exploring how simple, beautiful, friendly digital creations can improve aspects of everyday home life. To take our preconceptions that technology can be intrusive, untrustworthy or confusing, and prove that it can actually be peaceful, helpful, secure and sustainable.

To help us imagine new ways of living, we called upon the minds of some of the most innovative design and technology studios in different corners of the world. They put their heads together and started creating proposals to add to an ongoing series of digital experiments.

So far, we’ve had experiments proposed by studios and individuals such as —

The experiments

The experiments applied the latest technology available today to experience-driven details of everyday living. Taking relatively mundane aspects of day-to-day life, such as opening the blinds, choosing a lamp, rearranging the furniture or looking for a new couch, they worked to discover how these could be made easier, quicker, more enjoyable or more sustainable. They also explored avenues that weren’t just functional, but fun: turning your space into a musical instrument, or seeing how furniture would look and behave if it was a friendly creature.

What if an elephant could measure the size of your space?

Extreme Measures — FIELD

What if you could build a fort without making a mess?

Fort Making — FIELD

So far, we have 18 experiments. What kind of things do they explore?

Some experiments focus on safety. For example, one of the apps in Bakken & Bæck’s proposals Home Applications includes a light bulb that can alert you to the level of air pollution outside. In Private Collection, an experiment proposed by CIRG, the user is invited to select details in the house they would like to have masked in augmented reality: private documents, for example; or children’s faces.

Other experiments are more playful. FIELD’s Extreme Measures reinvents the tape measure by offering up an “elephant in the room,” which expands in order to tell you the dimensions of a certain space. Elsewhere, Random Studio came up with Hidden Characters: an app which transforms your furniture into creatures, attributing them with faces and personalities.

Because technology in the home doesn’t only have to mean doing something faster, or with more precision. It can simply provide a way to enjoy our homes more: infusing the spaces we have with joyous elements that make you feel happy, calm, or safe.

What if you could see the effect of light before deciding on a lamp?

Light Filters — ManvsMachine

What if algorithms could help design your next favorite chair?

Techno Carpenter — Bakken & Bæck

Why do we need this?

When approaching the brief, many of the studios and designers took into account changes in our living patterns and the ever-gradual shift in ideas of and around domesticity. They understood that home is now used for much more than just cooking, relaxing and sleeping. Suddenly, for a lot of people it has become a multi-generational, inclusive space for work and play: from catering for the imagination-driven needs of young kids, to becoming a home office for people simultaneously working in very different jobs.

Subsequently, all of the experiments can be used by, or at least explained to, a person of any age — from a young child to an elderly relative. They are friendly, unintrusive, charming and intuitive. As much a pleasure to use as they are helpful.

What if you could teach an old home a few new tricks?

Home Applications — Bakken & Bæck

What if your home could be played like a musical instrument?

Spatial Instruments — FIELD

What do the experts say?

When asked to explain their experiments, the studios spoke to us about their feelings regarding the relationship between technology and the home. Many of them agreed that tranquility was of the utmost importance when designing technological features for the home. ‘Home should be the point that people look to to have the most peaceful interactions; a place of comfort and serenity,’ says Timi Oyedeji. ‘Technology shouldn’t distract from that peace, but rather act as an enabler to almost make us believe that our homes just know us.’

Random Studio agreed. ‘Digital technology relies mostly on sight, which is our most distant sense. Tactility speaks to our social and emotional nature and allows us to make deeper connections. This is a research area that we have been interested in for a while and it is something we explore through internal speculative design exercises at our studio,’ they say. ‘People don’t really connect with performance technology; not that we want to avoid these innovations but we don’t like them to be visually present in our houses. It will be interesting to see how we can design technology to be more humble and charming, adding some poetry.’

Random Studio’s belief that design can be humble was mirrored by Alonso Holmes, founder of Cornfield Collective. He believes that the smarter technology becomes, the less it should require from us. ‘It should free us to focus on the relationships, experiences, and activities that matter the most to us,’ he says, ‘by removing unnecessary complication.’

What if you could see the way music travels around your home?

Optical Soundsystem — ManvsMachine

What if your hand gesture spoke to a light fitting?

Introduction Landscape Updated
Light Gestures — Timi Oyedeji

Everyday Experiments

The experiments, which play on the relationship between technology, home and the people who dwell within it, must be a result of thoughtful, intelligent design. The characteristic that ties all of the experiments together is the way in which the user is in full control of how they want, or imagine, their home to be. Each experiment is designed to make life more enjoyable, more comfortable and more helpful, while still maintaining the bespoke qualities that make it individual to each homeowner.

Everyday Experiments aims to explore, and then showcase, how the meaning of home can be redefined, without losing any of what made it feel like home to begin with.