It stood on the edge of Tomorrowland, its four cantilevered wings suspended high in the air, overlooking Sleeping Beauty Castle to the west and the Matterhorn to the east. When it opened in 1957, the House of the Future offered homeowners a Disney-designed glimpse of what domestic life would be in the far-off year of 1986, complete with rounded corners, vinyl flooring, and plenty of garishly coloured Formica.
While the original may have departed the happiest place on earth long ago (its location appropriated by Tinkerbell and her pixie coterie), the dream of using technology to make domestic life something less of a chore lives on. The latest to take up the challenge: Samsung. The Korean conglomerate, best known for its oversized smartphones, is now offering fridges, washers and dryers with eight-inch touchscreens, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a fair chunk of built-in flash memory. “The appliance industry has been a rather traditional industry—not a lot of change,” remarks Warner Doell, vice president of home appliance sales and marketing at Samsung Canada. As Doell explains, that lack of change presented an intriguing opportunity: “How do we take technology and apply it to appliances which will make consumers’ lives easier, more convenient, so they have time to pursue their passions?”
Aesthetically, Samsung’s Wi-Fi line is clearly positioned in the premium category. The refrigerator is a striking example of contemporary stainless steel chic, the perfect complement to a Yaletown or Coal Harbour condo. The washer-dryer set, available in either onyx or white, is, perforce, more utilitarian, yet even its oversized circular door and easy-to-use controls retain a sense of well-proportioned design that “feels” right. “The fit and finish is always important,” Doell says. “How do the handles feel? How do the drawers open and close? When you just look at them from an aesthetic point of view, they are very appealing.”
However appealing the overall product may be, it’s likely that consumers will be focused on a single eight-inch portion of it. Samsung’s LCD touch screens may be small, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to functionality, giving family members the opportunity to interact with their appliances—and with each other—via a centralized communication hub.
Keep track of the expiry date of that litre of milk you just bought. Think about what’s on the dinner menu by loading up the built-in Epicurious.com app. Then use your smartphone to check in on that load of towels you left on while you step out for those last few ingredients. It’s all part of Samsung’s vision for the house of the not-too-distant future, in which homeowners are constantly in touch with the tools of everyday life. “The appliance will become part of a connected home,” Doell says. “You control your HVAC, you control your electricity, you control security remotely or from within the home.”
Chores done, you can move on to other items on the to-do list. Upload the family’s vacation photos via the built-in card reader. Enter the date for junior’s piano recital into the Google Calendar app. See how the weather is shaping up for your weekend ski trip. “This is something we’ve spent a lot of time on—how easy can we make it for the consumer to get the most from this appliance?” Doell says. “That’s where this screen plays a role: it actually does make your life simpler.”
Simple or not, all work and no play would make domestic life pretty dull. Thankfully, Samsung’s got your back here, too. There is no particular reason why an appliance needs to be equipped with streaming radio, or why homeowners should take to the fridge the next time they feel the urge to check Twitter, but hey, it’s there when you need it. After all, this is Tomorrowland. And Fantasyland is right next door.