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Designing a smart home for seamless entertainment

Say goodbye to remote-control clutter

Welcome to Season 2 of Home of the Future, a six-part video series co-produced by Curbed and The Verge that chronicles the buildout of a prefab home in Austin, Texas—designed with cutting-edge technology, sustainability, and innovation in mind. This week, we get to the fun stuff: using home tech for seamless entertainment. Stay tuned for new video episodes on our Facebook page.

Today’s home entertainment technology has moved far beyond the one-remote-control-for-one-device paradigm. With the rise of internet-connected devices and streaming media, it’s possible to bid adieu to that jumbled mess of a remote drawer entirely. And that’s precisely our goal with our Home of the Future.

With folks’ audio and video content often spread across multiple apps and devices—TVs, speakers, gaming consoles, even VR headsets—the dream entertainment setup of the future would bring all of those options onto one simple, intuitive interface.

“The goal when you have a system like this is to masquerade as much as possible,” says Peter Sandford, whose Austin-based home integration and automation company, Smarter Homes, walked us through how to connect all of our smart home devices in Episode 3.

In our home, we have speakers hidden in the ceiling, and the TV can display a piece of art when not in use. All the wiring and a slew of devices—including a Roku, Nintendo Switch, and a surround-sound receiver—are concealed in a sleek white credenza. Finally, the traditional remote is gone and everything we need to have a good time is controlled by an iPad running on a system called RTI, which is the same system that controls the home’s lighting, temperature, security, and more.

On the iPad, clicking the living-room icon would pull up a list of content platforms you can play with, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Sonos. The iPad goes hands-free with Amazon Alexa, so you can use voice commands like “Alexa, tell home butler [the RTI system] to set the living room to movie mode,” which might turn your TV to Netflix, dim the lights, kick the A/C on, plus whatever else is programmed into the “movie mode” shortcut.

In our particular system, the music experience really shines. Thanks to Sonos’s open API, we can consolidate all of our music streaming services onto one interface. The audio experience gets more impressive outside, where a subterranean subwoofer provides sonic power underneath our feet while blending into the landscape.

Get a closer look at our entertainment system in Episode 5 of Home of the Future above. Catch up on previous episodes highlighting sustainability, security, and more here, and check back next week to see how it all comes together.