Step into a world where everyday objects in your living room work together to provide an amazing new entertainment experience where your own actions could determine the outcome of the programme you are watching or the radio show you are listening to.

Imagine the glass of water you randomly pick up, the book you look at, the sofa you sit on, and, maybe, the travel card you pick up – all internet-connected ‘things’ –  all working together to shape an experience effectively tailored, complete with appropriate ambient lighting, just for you.

Now researchers at Lancaster University have done just that – effectively creating a potential Living Room of the Future – as an experiment which lets you experience a new form of immersive media that might find its way into your home in the not too distant future.

But, unlike traditional media, which is the same for everyone, in the Living Room of the Future media adapts to you.

Smart lights change colour based on what’s happening, for example, and data from internet-connected ‘things’ in your home — lights, speakers, chairs, curtains, etc. — drive how the media unfolds and personalises the viewing experience around you.

The plausibly real setting is, at this stage, still partly fictional and, while creating it has sparked imaginative design skills and a little fun, the room has been built at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) to convey some serious messages.

As well as highlighting the potential of physical objects as data collators and informers in forming new immersive experiences, the Living Room of the Future experiment flags up the importance of understanding, managing and protecting the increasing amounts of data generated about ourselves and our families every day.

“Technology is really changing our lives but what will happen in our homes?” asks Lancaster University’s Chair of Speculative Design Professor Paul Coulton, whose team have created the new room.

“The Living Room of the Future raises ethical as well as aesthetic questions. Not only do we want to understand how people react to the Living Room of the Future as a new form of immersive media experience, we are also interested in people’s thoughts and feelings about the use of personal data in their homes to drive and personalise future media experiences.

“Would you be comfortable in the Living of the Future? Would it feel as though you were at home or that your private life were being invaded? What would have to be done for you to trust this near future world?”

Websites, like Netflix and YouTube, personalise our entertainment and products, like Alexa, control our home with voice command, explains Professor Coulton.

“But do you ever think about how much technology knows about you and your loved ones?” he adds. “Do you wonder where personal information will be stored, how safe it is, or how household objects will interact with each other, and you?

“And in the future, how much will your living room actually know about you?”

‘The Living Room of the Future’ is a short interactive experience after which participants will have a chance to take part in a short 10 minute interview to share their thoughts


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