Can Intelligent Furniture Actually Improve Human Interaction?

Mozayo M42-Pro
Mozayo M42-Pro

I read an article last week that blew my mind. We’ve come to rely on technology in our smartphones, tablets, GPSs and mp3 players that we only dreamed about before. Now, yet again, we are on the brink of an evolutionary shift --according to the article, technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that it is now emerging in furniture. Yes, you read that right, furniture.Gone are the days of old, antique coffee tables— soon, every home will contain an “intelligent” coffee table, which is essentially a giant iPad with, err, legs.

My first reaction to this was, “You have got to be kidding me!” A smart coffee table? I’m all for technology that makes our lives easier, but a smart coffee table seems absurd. Not only does it take away the charm that familiar or unique coffee tables bring to a home (and let’s face it, the smart coffee table looks fairly ridiculous), such a device (or should I call it a home accessory?) discourages something technology opponents have fought for a long time: good old human interaction. Or does it?

I do have issues with the actual appearance (I’d take an old-fashioned home over a modern one any day) and the fact that it discourages spending time outdoors. But those issues aside, I could argue that it might actually encourage human interaction. Right now a common living room scene includes family members sitting around, each playing on his or her iPad or iPhone, barely interacting with one another. At least with an intelligent coffee table, families and friends can “play” together, whether that means watching a YouTube video or playing electronic monopoly. I recognize the irony, but perhaps an intelligent coffee table is what’s needed to revive Saturday Board Game Night, which sadly, has seemed to disappear, in part because of technology.

Some people are technology enthusiasts while others hate it with a passion. However, no matter how you feel, technology will continue to evolve and there’s not much we can do to stop it. Software/computing companies such as  Microsoft and Samsung, along with actual manufacturers such as Mozayo, are already taking steps to ensure that intelligent coffee tables (among other things) will become a part of everyday life. (Not to mention the opportunity such furniture represents for electronic gaming giants like Electronic Arts (EA) and Rovio). Just like the “anti-smartphone user” who now swears by his or her iPhone, we will see resistance at first, but that will fade. And here’s my point: Instead of fighting technology’s infiltration into every aspect of our lives, let’s focus on the ways in which technology can actually encourage and improve human interaction, regardless of what form it takes.

Jessica Boardman is a senior consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @J_Boardman.