The Japanese don't mess around when it comes to high tech domesticity. Right now in Tokyo, Matsushita Electric Industrial (the company behind the Panasonic brand) is showing off the "home beyond 2010", a Japanese home-of-the-future complete with Jetsons-style family-robot, a slew of fully networked household appliances, toilets which moonlight as personal assistants, an iris-scanner at the front door, and a dining room table with a built-in touchscreen. In the showroom you can sit down for an imaginary supper and a jellyfish-shaped "agent" will swim your way that will let you download text and images from the web — though we can't honestly picture how this works, or understand why we need Internet access during dinner. Matsushita is also testing a service called Kurashi Net, meaning "home life", which let's you control appliances like microwaves and air conditioning using a cellphone or wireless PDA, and a security system that
alerts the user if their doors or windows are open.

And no home of the future would be complete without a futurisitic approach to the bathroom, would it? Toto, the Japanese toilet company, already sells the ubiquitous self-warming toilet which creates pleasing sounds for camouflaging, um, "noise pollution". Toto has also started selling a toilet which tests the levels of glucose in a person's urine, something that is targeted at diabetics. The next version of the toilet will be networked, so that the health information can be automatically sent to the user's family physician (creepy enough as this sounds). Though privacy advocate groups are complaining of the obvious legal issues involved with toilets that can automatically report on your "activities", a nation with such a rapidly aging population might just have to get used to new ways to keep tabs on the health of the elderly.



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