Back in 1957, Disneyland opened up a Jetsons-esque "Home of the Future" featuring all sorts of far-out gadgets like microwaves (!) and giant TVs (!). Some of them became realities in every American home. Others, like the floating furniture, well...
That attraction closed down in 1967, but now The Walt Disney Co. is taking a whole new approach to the idea.
I got a sneak peak at Disneyland's "Innoventions Dream Home," which opens in Tomorrowland on June 16.
Microsoft is the lead partner along with Hewlett-Packard, homebuilder Taylor-Morrison, and Lifeware, which creates the touch-screen that allows you to easily control everything in the house.
But unlike the old house of the "future," nearly everything in this new Tomorrowland house is actually available tomorrow. Now, that doesn't mean it's affordable -- the 100-inch, paper-thin floating flat screen costs something like $23,000. But it's still pretty cool that it's not a far-off dream.
Disney will take people through the house, with a story about the family that lives there: One of the sons is prepping to leave for China to play in a soccer championship. Another really cool thing about the house: you can customize the pictures in the digital picture frames, the music, even the temperature for each person in the family. Switch to mom's settings with one touch of the screen.
Microsoft and HP see this house as a way to show just how fun and accessible their technologies are. I'd argue it shows the softer side of these hard tech companies.
I spoke to Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate VP for Entertainment and Devices. He said part of it is simply showing people what they can do with their Xbox or Zune or other Microsoft gadgets they already have.
Taylor Morrison, which helped build the house, is looking to get feedback on what kind of gadgets people want in their homes. And of course this is a great way for all these companies to reach the 15,000 to 18,000 visitors who are expected to go through the attraction each day.
Disneyland guests exit the attraction into what looks like an outdoor tent for the family's picnic, and they can ask questions and get more info about all the products. The big question is: will Disneyland visitors be wowed by the gadgets enough not to feel like they're part of a marketing experiment?
If it works it'll be one smart marketing ploy.
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