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How Intelligent Reactive Environments Work

Ideally, an intelligent reactive environment would anticipate your needs while the technology itself fades into the background.
Ideally, an intelligent reactive environment would anticipate your needs while the technology itself fades into the background.

The dream of the intelligent house that anticipates the needs and desires of those living within it has been popular in entertainment circles for decades. From the Tex Avery cartoon "The House of Tomorrow" to SARAH, the bunker in "Eureka," smart houses in entertainment have promised to make our lives easier, more enjoyable or at the very least interesting.

What's really cool is that reality isn't that far behind fiction. There are products on the market today that could easily be part of a fully automated, intelligent home. And it's not just domestic life that's getting the AI overhaul. The workspace of the future may also adapt according to the needs of those working within it.

Whether or not we create a future with intelligent environments is no longer the question. Today, the questions include what form it will take, which technologies will serve as the foundation and which company's brand name will be stamped on nearly every electronic device you can imagine!

The goal will likely remain the same -- create personalized custom experiences for each person who lives or works within an environment based upon that person's preferences. It's easy to explain with an example.

Let's say that I'm living in a world in which intelligent reactive environments are common. I have profiles that inform the environments of what I prefer when I'm at work or at home. When I'm home, my house's sound system kicks in with some soothing punk rock music from the '70s. The music follows me from room to room, shutting off as I leave one part of the house and cueing up as I enter another. Meanwhile, the house's climate-control system adjusts for my preferences -- I like it nice and cool in my home, so the air conditioning kicks in.

At work, it's a different story. My workstation begins to play classical music through a set of headphones -- I don't listen to music with vocals while working, as I find it too distracting. My office phone knows my voice, letting me dial in to conference calls with a vocal command. When I'm done for the day, the lights shut off over my desk, conserving energy.

That's just scratching the surface of what intelligent reactive environments may be able to do for us. But to really understand how great a challenge it is to design one, we need to take a closer look at artificial intelligence itself.

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