Voice-activated bathtubs, coming to an ensuite near you.
We really do admire the effort the kitchen industry has gone to to convince us that our current fridges are not smart enough. Of course it's impressive that there are appliances out there that can text us when we're out of eggs or start cooking with a voice command. But despite the buzz, mass adoption of these technologies is still a ways off. I mean, here at Western Living, we have new, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art custom homes come across our desk every single day and have basically a front row seat to Western Canada's dreamiest dream kitchen renovations, and I don't think I've seen one smart fridge in action.
Is it that nobody really is ready for voice-activated anything? Are these solving design problems that don't really bother anyone? Just because technology can do something... does it really need to? I personally live happily with a dumb, non-texting fridge, and use my Amazon Echo as a glorified talking clock to see if there's enough time for one more episode of Sopranos before bed.
So when I popped by the Kohler Design Forum a few weeks back and caught wind of their upcoming "smart bathroom" designs, I was pretty skeptical. Promo videos showed beautiful humans dropping a code phrase to their mirrors ("Angela's Spa Night," purred one) that triggered mood lighting and a running tub faucet—set, one presumes, to the perfect temperature. A cool party trick, sure, but...why? Was Angela struggling to turn on the lights before? Would she start filling up the tub and get distracted by her own astoundingly symmetrical in the mirror? Did she flood her mansion one too many times?
Well, whether Angela's problems are real or not, Kohler got their top engineers on the case to develop a suite of products ready to take even the smallest of bathroom-related actions off of your hands. The Kohler Konnect line will be programmed by a phone app to respond to either touch screen or voice commands. There's the Numi 2.0. Intelligent Toilet, which features ambient lighting, a heated seat, personal cleansing and built-in speakers (finally!). PerfectFill technology draws a bath to the temperature and depth of your choosing, while the DTV+ showering system allows for preset combos of body sprays, steam jets, coloured lights, temperatures or playlists that suit your needs. The Verdera Voice Lighted mirror can change lighting levels with just an ask ("Makeup mode"), and brief you on the day's calendar while you're sweeping on that lipstick ("Tonight is Spa Night! DO NOT FLOOD THE HOUSE!").
It's absolutely interesting to see what the futurists at Kohler have cooked up, and to see what a daily routine could be if people actually did care enough about optimizing the bathroom experience. I'm just not confident the world is bothered enough by room-temperature toilet seats or turning a knob off or on to care. But maybe when the designs are launched next year, we'll find that a musical toilet is a more interesting offer than a texting refrigerator—only time will tell.