Amazon Is Invading Model Homes to Show Off a Future No One Wants

Illustration for article titled Amazon Is Invading Model Homes to Show Off a Future No One Wants
Photo: Amazon

Amazon announced Wednesday that it will try to pitch the general public on its dystopian future by launching interactive showrooms in model homes across the country to show off its full line of smart home products.

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The rooms, called “Amazon Experience Centers,” will be filled with Alexa-enabled products, everything from the thermostat to the lighting fixtures, all of which will respond to Amazon’s wildly popular AI assistant. The company will also hook up the televisions with Fire TV to show off Prime Video content and sprinkle around some Amazon Dash Buttons.

Amazon’s sample smart homes will be available for walkthroughs in 15 Lennar model homes, making good on a partnership the two companies entered into last year. The first cities to get the homes include Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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“We wanted customers to experience a real home environment that showcases the convenience of the Alexa smart home experience, great entertainment available with Prime, and Home Services,” said Bhavnish Lathia, general manager of Amazon Services, in a statement.

The Amazon Experience Center is probably a nice little piece of marketing for Amazon—it’s getting a blog post out of it, after all—but it’s not really clear who the whole concept is for. Other than early adopters who are already totally into the whole smart home concept, most folks just aren’t into it.

According to a 2017 survey from Gartner, just 10 percent of more than 10,000 people questioned said they had smart home solutions in their house, and three-quarters of respondents said they’re perfectly happy with the manual way of doing things. Nearly 60 percent of people reported a preference for separate, stand-alone devices rather than those that can be linked through a universal hub.

There’s good reason to not want to live in a house that has thousands of invisible bits of data floating through the air and being scooped up by Amazon. Connected home products are notoriously insecure and more than happy to emit information that you’re not willingly or knowingly sharing.

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It’s also worth noting that this whole Amazon model home experiment is basically how the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House starts, and that did not end well. There’s even an Alexa-analogous character in Pat, the AI that controls the titular smart house and eventually goes mad and tries to lock a family inside. Alexa has its own penchant for creepy behavior, it feels like Amazon is really tempting fate here.

[TechCrunch]

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Nights and weekends editor, Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

conlawhero
ConLawHero

I thoroughly disagree with this premise. People may say they don’t want it, but it’s purely because they don’t know or don’t understand it.

For example, my wife could have lived the rest of her life perfectly happy had I never installed smart home stuff. But, ask her now and she absolutely loves it.

I’ve cobbled the entire system together myself using Smartthings and various smart apps. It’s phenomenal. I can tell you anything about my house while not being there. Most of the features I’ve implemented don’t even require any user interaction. It’s all based on logic.

While nothing I have is essential to modern day life, it is damn helpful. It’s really nice knowing whether my garage door is shut and if it isn’t, shutting it from my phone or from my Echo.

Every outside door in my house has a smart lock. It makes life so much easier and so much more secure. Now, I don’t have to give my garage door code to anyone. I have codes specifically for certain people (dog walker, cleaning lady, etc.). I can control exactly when those codes are operational. I get notifications when they unlock and lock the doors. I can make sure that once they’ve left all the doors are locked and the house is armed again.

Hell, since I installed my WiFi thermostat about 3 years ago, because I’ve been able to use Smartthings as a presence sensor and have my thermostat flip to home or away based on that, I’ve saved over $1,500 on my utility bills. So, a $200 investment has netted me $1,500 in 3 years. Not a bad ROI. It’s better for the environment. It makes my house safer (if something happens like furnace isn’t working in winter, I’ll automatically know).

So, when I read something like this article, I find that it mostly comes from a place of extreme ignorance.