'Tipping Point'? Could 2015 be the year of domestic robots and 3D printed food?

Could 2015 be the year of domestic robots and 3D printed food? Futurologist claims technology has reached a 'tipping point'

  • Comments were made by London-based futurologist Dr James Bellini 
  • He says more people will opt for mobile phone-controlled smart devices
  • Many of these devices will be home-based, such as smart thermostats  
  • Domestic robots are the product people are most looking forward to
  • Dr Bellini added that we were beginning to see the phasing out of 'traditional' technologies, such as the TV set and landline phones
A smart home full of devices connected to each other, as well as domestic robots are closer than we think, according to one futurologist.
This year has seen a rush in the popularity of smart gadgets, with items like 3D printers and smart thermostats making it onto Christmas lists for the first time.

The trend is a sign of the way technology will accelerate in 2015, according to London-based futurologist Dr James Bellini.

'The centrepiece of our future is the British home, which is rapidly becoming the digital hub for our increasingly connected lives,' he said.
'Our homes are set to be enriched further by energy; from high-tech gadgets and appliances to smart devices.'

Dr Bellini was commenting on the release of a report by energy company SSE, which showed that the average home was transforming, as consumer buying habits changed.

The Home of the Future report found that in 2015, the most wanted products will be 3D printers, followed by smart devices that connect to our phones - primarily thermostats and security systems, as well as solar-powered chargers.

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Future of food? 3D printers such as Foodini (pictured) could change the way we prepare our meals. They are set to become more mainstream, according to a recent study

3D printing is a technology moving further into the mainstream, with the first artificial limbs created from 3D printers being used on patients this year.

Not only are the devices now on sale in retailers, but there are multiple mobile apps that enable users to create and buy figures and toys that are printed in 3D.

'3D has been described as the biggest economic revolution since Henry Ford introduced production line manufacturing in the 1900s,' Dr Bellini said.

'Nasa already use it to turn out rocket parts; they are also developing ways to deploy 3D technology to produce on-board meals for the manned Mars missions planned for 2030 and beyond.

'At the domestic level, 3D printing will mimic the take-up of fax machines and microwaves in the 1980s.

'The cost of a printer is falling rapidly - a starter version sells for less than £500 ($777) - and they are incredibly versatile.

'Printing a new smartphone case takes about 30 minutes - then there are toys, handles, chess pieces, replacements parts for every domestic gadget.

'Then there's food.

'Nutritionists are looking at ways of printing food items for the elderly to match individual nutritional/dietary needs.

'And although it's early days for 3D printed pizzas and chocolate, it won't be long before every home has gone 3D.'

SSE's report also found that one of the products people were most looking forward to having in their home were domestic robots, with 26 per cent of those surveyed highlighting humanoids as a desirable product in years to come.

Technology giant Honda already has a domestic robot, Asimo, who can remember faces and serve drinks, and made its first appearance in Europe this year.

As the number of smartphones and tablets around the home grows, Dr Bellini said we were beginning to see the phasing out of 'traditional' technologies, such as the TV set, as well as landline phones and older portable devices.

'2014 was the tipping point, with the total number of old-style TV sets in the UK declining for the first time ever,' he said.

'We're seeing more people increasingly watch TV shows and movies, as well as playing games on tablets and other devices.'

He added, 'Nostalgia is being overtaken by digital practicalities.

'In the mobile age, fixed-line phones are about as relevant as sand-filled egg-timers.

'According to a recent Ofcom study, it is a highly generational thing.
'A third of 16 to 24-year-olds and 26 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds live in mobile-only homes.

'For the over-75s, the figure is just one per cent.'

Major technology brands have also spoken of the growing influence of the 'Internet of Things'; the idea that eventually all the devices and appliances in the home will be connected together via the web, and controlled from a single device.

Samsung UK president Andy Griffiths said earlier this year: 'There has been a huge change in the way the connected world is established, and so to take that forward 10 years it's interesting to note that the main trend we believe by then will be the connected home.'


Earlier this year, Tokyo firm Softbank unveiled a robot called Pepper, which can read emotions

In a country dominated by 'kawaii' - or cute culture - Japan has embraced the rise of cuddly robots.

Earlier this year, one Tokyo-based firm has unveiled what it believes to be the world's first droid that can read human emotions.

Mobile carrier Softbank said its robot, named Pepper, will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen (£1,130 or $1,900).

The machine, which has no legs, but has gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming.

Pepper uses an 'emotional engine' and a cloud-based artificial intelligence to study gestures, expressions and human speech tones.

The 48-inch (121 cm) tall, 62 lb (28 kg) white Pepper has no hair, but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest.

It was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which designs, produces and sells autonomous humanoid robots.



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