Disney Revives ‘House of the Future’
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Millions of Disneyland visitors will soon get to retrace the thoughts of others who lined up a half-century ago to see a home packed with mind-blowing gadgets expected in the future.
Disneyland's original "House of the Future," a pod-shaped, all-plastic dwelling, quickly seemed quaint and closed its doors after a decade, in 1967. Its oddities included handsfree phones, wall-sized televisions and electric razors.
But Disney announced Wednesday that it will soon open a new dwelling in Tomorrowland — this time in partnership with 21st century technology giants.
The 5,000-square-foot home, scheduled to open in May, will look like a suburban tract home outside. But inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living.
Lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people walk into a room. Closets will help pick out the right dress for a party. Countertops will be able to identify groceries set on them and make menu suggestions.
The $15 million Innoventions Dream Home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison.
Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.
"It's much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show," said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. "We won't get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you."
The actors will be in a flurry of cooking, packing and picture-taking designed to emphasize cutting-edge features in the home's two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, study and back yard.
The project fits with Walt Disney's dedication to invention and entrepreneurship and the original purpose of Tomorrowland, said Cynthia King, director of California State University, Fullerton's Center for Entertainment and Tourism.
"He considered himself a futuristic person and he supported innovation and he wanted to make it available to the public," she said. "What everything (at Disneyland) has in common is this idea of imagination, whether it's creating a whole fantasy world, or creating the future."
Much of the project will showcase a network that makes the house "smart" and follows family members from room to room — even adjusting artwork to preset personal preferences.
When a resident clicks a TV remote, for example, lights will dim, music will shut off and the shades will draw as the network realizes a movie is about to start.
The system will allow residents to transfer digital photos, videos and music among televisions and computers in different rooms at the click of a button. Other applications still in development could include touch-screen technology built into appliances, furniture and countertops, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's vice president for entertainment services.
In the kitchen, for example, touchpad software on the countertop would be able to identify groceries and produce recipes and meal suggestions. Similar programs could turn a desktop into a computer screen, allowing residents to load photos, music or e-mail onto a cell phone by placing it on the desk.
Mirrors and closets could identify clothes and suggest matching outfits, complimentary colors or track what apparel is at the cleaners or in the wash.
But the idea behind the house isn't new for Microsoft — and some of the touchpad technology has already been displayed at trade shows and other venues, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst for the research group Directions on Microsoft.
Microsoft has a similar hi-tech home on its campus, as well as one at Hewlett-Packard's headquarters, he said. Neither are open to the public, however, and Microsoft has struggled to find a way to excite consumers about upcoming products without retail stores.
"I don't think Microsoft wants to get directly into retail but it looks like these types of demonstrations are a way for it to get its brand in front of the public," he said. "It's an audience that's there to be entertained and specifically coming to see these kinds of things."
When it comes to aesthetics, designers decided to stray from the Jetsons-style House of the Future — an all-plastic cross design with four wing-shaped bays that appeared to float. The house was so tough that wrecking balls bounced off it when Disney ripped it down in 1967.
The new home will be made of wood and steel and finished in muted browns and beiges, said Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Taylor Morrison in North America.
"The 1950s home didn't look like anything, anywhere. It was space-age and kind of cold," she said. "We didn't want the (new) home to intimidate the visitors. We want the house to be real accessible to our guests."