Students teases the future of home automation with Microsoft Research’s HomeOS

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Less than a year ago, Microsoft Research began tinkering with the idea to create an “operating system” for the home dubbed “HomeOS“. In the months since, it turns out students from a number of US universities have spent their semesters prototyping some pretty cool applications for such a platform.

In the video above, students of the University of Washington demonstrate five such applications including:

  • Improving security with camera on a door a doorthat senses the presence of visitors and notifies users with an image of the person on the PC or phone. The user can then unlock the door remotely, even if they’re not at home. The system also archives the photo for future reference and could be enhanced with facial recognition.
  • Tracking user’s location within a house by using the phone to detects the variance in WiFi signal strengths of access points around you. By knowing which room a user may be in, one use is enabling media playback to follow the user around the house and continuing where they left off.
  • Controlling lights by pointing to them using the Kinect sensors to predict which device the user is pointing to.
  • Making alarms more contextually-aware with integration into a user’s appointments and driving traffic information that adjusts the time to wake the user.
  • A system to enable the access of devices inside a private network from an outside public network. (Not too sure how this is different to a NAT traversal)

Since HomeOS is currently limited to an academic audience only, it’ll be interesting to see when Microsoft Research will expand the availability to the broader developer community and most importantly, embedded hardware designers, to experiment more broadly with.

With Google already making a bet on home automation systems with the Android@Home sneak peek just a couple months ago, you can bet this won’t be the last you’ll hear or see of HomeOS.

8 insightful thoughts

  1. Wow, so many cool idea for Home Automation. Years before Google, there are X10. Not so long ago, b4 google, there are Enocean.
    I wonder will the future be (device to device) or (device to cloud) or (device to home server / xbox / modem) …. maybe it is a mix of everything.
    Nevertheless, Kinect-like 3D+Voice sensor will likely be an important Human to Device interface in Home.

    Nice post again Long Zheng. Cheers.

    //By the Way, I think that Bethesda’s WET T-shirt is from 2009 Pax (Prime).

  2. As somebody who owns a home automation system, their proposals don’t impress me. The first bullet point can already be done with existing systems. The second bullet point is a nice idea but I doubt it will work reliably in practice. Third one relies on the Kinect and I don’t know if multiple Kinects can be configure to a single XBox 360 system and be designated for specific rooms. Seems like there is a lot of changes that would need to be made to the XBox software to be able to support that. The one about the alarm seems doable. It maybe even be doable given current home automation systems.

  3. Its good to see how the rest of the world is finally catching up when it comes to automation! Where I live, home automation has been standard ever since 1983. Obviously, since then the automation equipment has been replaced with newer equipment, but there are still certain automation elements I still currently don’t have and I drool with envy after reading this article.

    Keep the posts coming Long Zheng!

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