Thursday, February 08, 2007

This way lies madness

I was delighted by a piece of news last night on't telly about a 'computerised flat' (I think that's what they called it) for 'older people, possibly with dementia, or struggling with forgetfulness and not really safe to live on their own'. The idea is a 'smart home' that senses what reminders it needs to give you so you can live life safely.

It goes like this. Elderly person wakes in the night and sits up in bed. Regardless of whether they're intending to get up - they might be reaching for a drink, stretching, or wanting to contemplate the futility of life in an upright position - the light over their head comes on, as does the bathroom light because the 'house' assumes they need the loo. It they dare to not lie down, or worse, to get up and not go to the toilet, a disembodied female version of Stephen Hawking tells them 'it is 3am. Time to be in bed'.

If they leave the cooker on the voice tells them 'the kitchen needs attention' (but is strangely vague on the type of attention required. They could presumably spend their last precious hour cleaning out the fridge while the house burns down).

All this HAL-like care seems guaranteed to send anyone teetering on the brink of reality into a downward trajectory. Although Richard and I were quite keen to consider the technology for ourselves. He frequently leaves the oven on. And I have been known to wander the house at all hours of the night in a surreal state whilst tanked up on high dose steroids. Could be just what we're looking for.

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