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10 High-Tech Home Innovations

Many of today's home tech products center around one goal: to make your life simpler.
Many of today's home tech products center around one goal: to make your life simpler.
©iStockphoto.com/Baris Simsek

Smart home technology has been around for years, and just like any other electronics, home technology is always improving. Home tech products use computers and other futuristic gadgets to perform a variety of automated tasks that are generally centered around one goal: to make your life simpler. Some products turn on the lights when you enter a room; others can start dinner in the oven before you ever leave work. Of course there are those home tech innovations that we buy just to make life more fun -- think 3-D TV. So let's take a look at 10 high-tech innovations and see how they can make life at home easier and more enjoyable.

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One of the coolest things in TV technology isn't HD, it's 3-D.
One of the coolest things in TV technology isn't HD, it's 3-D.
Samsung

Think "Avatar" meets "Dancing with the Stars." Taking a page from Hollywood, television manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are now incorporating 3-D technology into new TV sets. What's so special about 3-D TV? When you watch a standard TV or even an HDTV, you're watching images transmitted in two dimensions, height and width. Three-D adds a third dimension -- depth. Some networks, including ESPN, are broadcasting some shows in 3-D. However, you need special glasses called active liquid crystal shutter glasses to view these shows. Why the glasses? Three-D images are actually two images of the same scene. The left eye sees one image; the right eye sees the other. The brain combines both pictures creating the illusion of a third dimension [source: Katzmaier]. Like all new products, 3-D TVs aren't cheap; some sets sell for $3,000 or more.

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Look out on the patio. Is it a pool? Is it a floor? No. It's a Hydrofloor. If you want to increase the amount of usable space on your property, but your swimming pool takes up too much real estate, then the Hydrofloor is just what the architect ordered. With one push of the button, the Hydrofloor slowly rises from the bottom of the pool to any depth you desire. At its highest level, the Hydrofloor completely covers the pool and blends in with the surrounding floor or patio, and is safe to walk on. You and your family can dance, walk or play games on the Hydrofloor without fear of getting wet. The Hydrofloor also saves money and energy by completely covering a heated pool when no one is swimming. The price to install a Hydrofloor depends on the area the floor will cover and other factors [source: Nosowitz].

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How many times have you drawn the blinds, shades or curtains to keep nosey neighbors from seeing what you're having for dinner? The days of blinds, curtains and shutters are now over thanks to some of the brainiest windows in the world. So-called "smart glass," or switchable glass, allows you to bask in the sun's light while still enjoying your privacy. The windows change from clear to translucent, partially blocking the sun's rays when an electrical charge energizes special materials inside the glass.

Depending on the glass, the windows can change in seconds or minutes. Some block out light entirely. You can manually operate the switchable glass, or hook the windows up to an automatic sensor that regulates the amount of light passing through [source: Automated Building]. Smart glass can also save you money by decreasing energy costs, and some even allow you to project images that keep time with music on the glass. Do what you want. Your neighbor can't see inside.

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The Connect IO wall oven has a refrigeration setting so you can pop your dinner in before you leave for work, then access the oven via WI-FI to tell it when to start cooking.
The Connect IO wall oven has a refrigeration setting so you can pop your dinner in before you leave for work, then access the oven via WI-FI to tell it when to start cooking.
TMIO

From our "What Will They Think of Next" file, comes an oven that refrigerates as well as cooks. Or is it a refrigerator that cools as well as cooks? Either way, here's how the Connect IO refrigerated wall oven from TMIO works: Before you leave for work in the morning, you simply pop a dinner entrée into the oven. The oven, er, refrigerator, keeps the food cold all day long. Just before you leave work, you can turn on the oven from any computer or cell phone with an Internet connection. By the time you get home, your meal is waiting, although you have to serve yourself. The Connect IO costs about $5,800.

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Apple TV gives access to movies, iTunes, TV shows and Internet radio stations.
Apple TV gives access to movies, iTunes, TV shows and Internet radio stations.
Apple

For fans of everything Apple, you can now expand your i-empire to your TV thanks to, what else, Apple TV. The new, much smaller box is just $99 and hooks to any HDTV with a single HDMI cable connection. Once you connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi, you have access to more than 7,000 movies -- half in HD -- for $4.99 each, plus HDTV episodes from ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America for just 99 cents. You can also stream content to your TV from Web sites like Netflix, YouTube and Flickr, or from your own computer. And because it's compatible with iTunes, you'll have access to your own music, more than 200,000 podcasts and 4,000 Internet radio stations that you can pump through your home entertainment system.

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The Starry Night Bed is fully programmable and can be automated with a home's lighting, temperature and music.
The Starry Night Bed is fully programmable and can be automated with a home's lighting, temperature and music.
Leggett & Platt

If you think a bed is just a bed, think again. The Starry Night Bed from Leggett and Platt takes sleeping to another dimension altogether. It comes complete with electronic components that can connect the bed with other electronics in the bedroom and throughout the house. You can program the bed to control the lights, thermostat, security system and media system. And the best part is you can create your own specific settings, like a reading mode, that will automatically raise the head of the bed, turn on the bedside lamp, turn off the television and lower the ceiling lights; or a relaxation mode that will turn on the bed's massage feature, lower the lighting and room temperature, and play your favorite "unwind" music. The only problem we can think of is how hard it must be getting up.

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Just when you thought it was safe to get up from the couch, Google, the company that revolutionized the way we surf the Web, is now changing the way we watch television. Google TV marries all the information on the Web with the high-quality viewing experience of television. With Google TV, we can search the Internet and watch our favorite shows, video clips, sporting events and movies in big-screen high-definition splendor. We can also view photos, play games and check sports scores, moving seamlessly move from Web to TV. And unlike 3-D TV, you don't have to buy a new television. You can buy a Google TV device for around $300. Google TV also comes pre-installed on some sets.

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If you're feeling blue, then perhaps a nice shade of yellow will perk you up. Green around the gills? How about a little fuchsia to make you feel better? All this and more can be yours if your house is decked out in digital light. With a simple click of a remote, you can bathe your house in pretty much any color you want. At the center of this technology is the LED (light-emitting diode) bulb. LEDs allow you to pick the color and brightness of light. In addition, LED lights save money because they use less energy than regular bulbs. Several companies specialize in digital lighting products, including one that has developed a microprocessor that can control an LED system that generates more than 16.7 million colors.

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It wasn't that long ago when your kids were nagging you for the Nintendo Wii, the ultra-sophisticated 3-D game-playing console. The intuitive Wii had everyone bowling, golfing and playing tennis in the living room. All we had to do was pick up the wireless nunchuk and start swinging. Heck, even senior citizens got in to the game. Brace yourself for more nagging. This year, Sony introduced its own interactive 3-D game-playing system for its PlayStation 3. Sony engineers designed PlayStation Move with its own wireless wand. The basic Move package, which includes one controller and a sports game, costs $99.99. An additional controller retails for around $29.95. A review in The New York Times gives the PlayStation Move high marks for its sophistication and ease of movement [source: Schiesel]. Unlike Wii, the Move doesn't use batteries, so you're going to need a recharger for the wand. The recharger costs about $30.

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Steam washers sanitize fabrics and remove dirt and grime better than conventional washing machines.
Steam washers sanitize fabrics and remove dirt and grime better than conventional washing machines.
LG

Raise your hands if laundry day is the most frustrating day of the week. It's always a crapshoot whether the grass stain in Timmy's soccer uniform is going to come out. And wrinkles…let's not even go there. Luckily for the laundry-challenged, manufacturers, including LG, Kenmore and Whirlpool have added a steam cycle to some of their washers and dryers. LG has also manufactured a washing machine that gets rid of allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. What's so special about steam? Steam not only gives cleaning a boost, but it sanitizes fabrics and removes dirt and grime better than conventional washing machines. Why does steam clean so effectively? Steam molecules move faster and are hotter than water molecules, so they get between fibers, ridding clothes of dirt and odors [source: LG]. For its part, steam dryers apply steam at the right time during the drying cycle to smooth out wrinkles and soften clothes. And if you husband's shirt wreaks of tobacco smoke or some other unsavory smell, a quick cycle through the steam dryer kills the stench.

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Sources

  • Apple.com. "Apple Premieres New Apple TV for Breakthrough Price of $99." Sep. 1, 2010. (Nov. 14. 2010) http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/09/01appletv.html
  • Automated Building. "A Window into Shading and Electrically Switchable Glass." Aug., 2010. (Oct. 2010) http://www.automatedbuildings.com/news/aug10/articles/sinopoli2/100728122909sinopoli.htm
  • CBS News. "Toshiba Develops No-Glasses 3-D TV." Oct., 4, 2010. (Oct., 2010) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-20018413-501465.html
  • Katzmaier, David. "3D TV FAQ." CNet News. March, 12, 2010. (Oct., 2010). http://news.cnet.com/3d-tv-faq/
  • LG Buyer's Guide. "Washer/Dryer Combos." (Oct., 2010). http://www.lg.com/us/appliances/buyer-guide/whats-a-steamwasher-dryer-combo.jsp
  • Nosowitz, Dan. "Hydrofloors: A Vertically Retractable Swimming Pool (Finally!). Fast Company. March 2, 2010. (Oct., 2010) http://www.fastcompany.com/1567018/hydrofloors-a-vertically-retractable-swimming-pool-finally
  • Schiesel, Seth. "Challenging the Wii's Supremacy." The New York Times. Oct., 15, 2010. (Oct., 2010) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/16/arts/16move.html
  • Starrynightbed.com. "Starry Night Sleep Technology and Life|ware." 2007. (Nov. 14., 2010). http://www.starrynightbed.com/starrynight-lifeware.asp

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