Beyond Voice: Image Recognition and Virtual Reality

photo credit

This is the fifth part in a series where we’ll discuss the user interface in the home and where it’s going. This series is based on the talk we gave at CEDIA 2016. You can watch the live talk here.

In our last post, we discussed how AI and gesture recognition technologies will be transformative in home control interfaces. Let’s continue to explore other technologies that will make an impact in home automation.

The next interface technology to discuss is image recognition. Image recognition is one of these really powerful technologies because it’s what’s driven a lot the neural network innovations in the last 5–10 years. We can already take a random photo and understand that theres a cat in it, or use facial recognition to understand if someone in your home is your husband or an intruder.

Image recognition only works if you have cameras faced on the items you’re interested in, and maybe one of the biggest use cases is for security. Doing a quick Google search for doorbell cameras, we find that there is a lot to choose from. If we could apply image recognition technology to all of these video streams, we could do some really interesting things. For example, we could automatically let someone in to a home if we facial detect that it’s someone trusted. We could also setup an alert to let us know if someone is walking up to the door that we don’t want to let in.

Doorbell cameras: Ring, Skybell, and Vivint (photo credit)

Image recognition, from a technology standpoint, is already well understood, but we’re not yet seeing it in the home. The big thing that’s going to dictate how well this takes off is how comfortable consumers are with having cameras on them. We don’t yet know exactly how this will be adopted or how quickly, and, if you’re an integrator, it might be a tricky sell to try to convince your clients that they should have cameras in every room if that’s not something they are comfortable with. If consumers and our industry starts to get more comfortable with this idea, image recognition is going to enable some really cool things, and it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Another technology that seems to be blowing up is virtual reality. We’re hearing a lot about this in gaming, with companies like Oculus Rift that Facebook bought for a lot of money. There is some confusion about what virtual reality actually is, and I want to define this so we have a really good understanding of what it is.

Virtual reality is not augmenting the world around you. If you are standing in your home, for example, virtual reality will not virtually layer things on top of everything you see. Virtual reality is physically putting on a virtual headset. You can be in a dark closet with nothing around you, and you put on the VR headset, and you’re in a virtual world.

The reason this is so interesting is that a lot of what we’re doing, especially with communications and video chat, and the way that we want to live in our homes comfortably can be solved through VR. Imagine, instead of using FaceTime or video chat to talk with your parents across the country, you could put on a VR headset and be virtually sitting and talking with them in their living room.

VR on display at CEDIA 2016 (photo courtesy rAVe Publications)

Virtual reality can also be really good for staging. Home professionals, including designers, architects, and integrators, can basically do a video walk through of a home and virtually stage the experience. You can show what it’s like to have big screen TVs, surround sound audio, and a full immersive experience. If this catches on, VR is going to disrupt the way that we sell as integrators.

We’re seeing a lot of companies invest a lot of money in this technology, but whether it will catch on is yet to be seen. How likely are we all going to want to have these devices put all them on our heads? It’s an uncertain future whether or not this is going to really get adopted by the masses, but if it does, we need to adopt it in our world. Keep an eye on virtual reality. It’s one of those technologies that is super powerful and very exciting, and it may or may not take off with the masses in the short term.

Continue to the next part in this series as we dive into augmented reality.

This was written by Alex Capecelatro, Co-Founder & CEO of Previously, Alex was a research scientist for NASA, Sandia National Lab, and the NRL. Before that, Alex worked at Fisker Automotive and founded At The Pool and Yeti. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, lives in LA, and likes to tweet about AI, Startups, and Design. is an artificial intelligence agent for your home. If you’re interested in learning more, visit us at

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