Tour: Disney's Innovations Home of the Future

Aug 13 2008

Disneyland--the happiest place on earth--and the home of some of the most cutting edge in technology for the home? Apparantly so! I recently was invited to tour the brand new attraction located in the Tomorrowland of California's Disneyland Theme Park.

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According to the Disneyland.com webpage :

Experience how incredible your family's life can be with the latest technologies in Disneyland's unique Tomorrowland interactive exhibits. Don't miss:

  • The Innoventions Dream Home, where the Elias family invites you to enjoy their digital lifestyle, with exciting innovations from Microsoft, HP, Lifeware and Taylor Morrison Homes
  • Project Tomorrow, a hands-on experience featuring the digital wizardry of Body Builder, Power City and more presented by Siemens
  • An ASIMO running robot, the world's most advanced humanoid robot, showing off its remarkable abilities in a 20-minute show
  • Five interactive areas, including the Xbox Experience and other multimedia games as well as St. Joseph's Healthy University
  • Tom Morrow, one of the wittiest Audio-Animatronic® hosts ever imagineered
Not exactly an awful lot of content devoted to the wealth of technology being shown, right? Well, that's why we blog. To give you the full disclosure with the good and the bad. If you want some more facts about the home, there was a lot more detailed information at DisneylandEvent.com , so check it out to find out what inspired the design, how many cast members, etc.

Take this as more of an opinionated tour guide, hopefully with some pictures that give you an idea of the attraction. So let's see what this home really had to offer.

 

Entrance

 

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Entrance Doors

Mr. Tom Morrow...get it?

Entering the Innovations Home is your typical Disneyland attraction. Wait in line while the house revolves (pretty cool), and then watch the screens. While you wait for your group's turn inside you are greeted by a Disney-ish corny-yet-trying-to-be-funny "robot" named Tom Morrow introducing you to the house and some fun technology facts. Definitely geared to keep those youngsters interested and I think mission accomplished.

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House Mom Bonnie introducing the Doggy Door

Showing off the House Window Shades

If you have ever been to one of HP's Smart Homes at CES or at HP's campus, then you are probably familiar with the characters that make these homes go. For the Innoventions home you are greeted by the Elias family. The first section is the entrance to the house, starting with the automatic doggy door as shown in the picture above. The picture above right represents home window shades...with a twist, of course. There are actually different themes, videos and images you can program depending on whether you want a tour of the solar system, or if you simply want a party theme. She lets us into the house with a biometric hand scanner and we're off to roam wild in the house.

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Entrance Room

Trees made of Motherboards

Unlike the majority of Disneyland attractions which move you through them like cattle, I really appreciated the fact that the Innoventions home is completely free. You are free to roam and walk around wherever you want, for however long or short you want. The Disney cast members are randomly in different rooms and interact quite well with the guests. Of course, if you are the type of person that wants each demo in each room at an exact time, then you're going to be dissapointed or get impatient waiting.

 

Kitchen

 

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Refrigerator, Microwave & Touchpanel

Slick Stovetop

Make no mistake about it, the Kitchen is probably going to wow you more than any other room in the house...and that's coming from an individual who cannot stand cooking or the kitchen! From the moment you enter it, you are surrounded by non-stop displays or other creative toys to make it actually...fun.

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Nook eating area

Wine Cooler and Coffee Maker

 

Around the corner of the kitchen area is the small eating space, with yet some more touchpanels and LCD displays. The wine cooler (no, sorry college boys, not those kinds of wine coolers) and coffee maker are another nice addition and blend incredibly well.

 

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Picture Wall

The original TouchSmart

The left picture above has 6 more display screens framed (there are over 100 displays in the home), and playing back different images. The right picture shows how some of the devices definitely attract all ages, with kids being allowed to play with the original Touchsmart...   Which is essentially a relic nowadays with the new Touchsmart series (shown being used by some teens in the image below). Even now, one of the best memories I have of the home was being genuinely impressed and pleased with how the product has evolved from its conception. I had never seen the original prior to the Home (which is a good thing given its shortcomings), but having the new one next to it really showed that HP was committed to the line, and more importantly to the feedback they must have received, because the new Touchsmarts are--for lack of a better word--gorgeous.

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 Seimens Slick looking toaster

Some NY Teens enjoying the new Touchsmart 

 

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Gorgeous Kitchen

Pizza cooker

The kitchen has so much going on for it but the most practical feature is called Lillian--a voice & RFID activated cooking assistant. The screen is shown through the countertop and you interact with it by asking for ingrediants or cooking instructions. Very cool for those of us who still have to read instructions on how to cook rice!

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Lillian...the smartest cooking helper

 

 

 

 

Surface Tablets

 

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Surface very touch-friendly

Photos from a Phone

One of the most interactive-friendly attractions of the Innovations home is the Microsoft Surface tabletop. By now you have probably already seen some of the features the Surface is bringing in the future. For the most part it worked pretty well, and the kids definitely enjoyed themselves with it. 

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Manuscript via Surface

Zoom in

What caught my eye the most out of all the different Surfaces (there are 8 total around the house) was the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland. It is very cool to be able to turn the page, zoom in and all sorts of other features. I have been fairly skeptical of Surface as a gimmick, but this was the first example of something I was genuinely pleased with.

Den and Living Room

 

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Den Entrance

Work area...by work, I mean Half-Life

Beside the kitchen, nothing attracted crowds as much as the Living Room and Den area and for good reason. When you walk into the room (top left) there is so much technology just staring at you, but my eye was caught by the display-heavy office in the rear (top right). Of course backing up all the data on all these systems was an HP MediaSmart Server (glowing in the bottom left) and a wireless printer. 

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Some HP Devices

3-D Printer...yes, 3-D!

The picture on the right is a....wait for it....3-D Printer! If all goes well, this little device (ok, kinda big), will be able to print/produce actual OBJECTS for you!! The analogy given to me was simple--say you break the back of your remote (who hasn't!?!), you would get the schematics of it, and then the printer would literally make you a new one! Pretty cool, hopefully it sees the light of day. 

 

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Gorgeous 100" Glass Rear Projection Display

The down side to glass screens

Being an A/V fan, the living room display is a stunning 100" Glass Rear Projection display. I am not sure why they did not use one of those sexy 102" Plasma TVs displayed at CES, but this was a stunning picture! Content was fairly minimal, so I didn't get a chance to evaluate it fully, but they did have one high definition recording of Good Morning America to show off some of its capabilities.  

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The Remote of the future? I hope not!

 

Just about the only dissapointment for me is the use of the Gyration Media Center remote. I have no idea why this remote was selected, but if I could request one thing from Disney, is to leverage this "future" home and at least show off a remote with a touchscreen...please? Especially as you can buy one at Best Buy for $200, they should be able to do way better.   

Bedrooms

 

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Daughter's Room

Son's Room

Ok, so I told you it was not all good news, right? Maybe it's because of my age, but I just did not understand the Son's bedroom. It was themed like Peter Pan, with a canon and clock tower (very cool). The dad comes into the room and starts reading the Peter Pan story, and then they have the Peter Pan movie on the projection and utilizing the walls around it. So why not just watch the movie itself? I was asking myself that same question the whole time. It was the only room I remember even the kids leaving it being unimpressed.

 

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Full size magic mirror, kinda

Pink's not his color

The daughter's room on the other hand was a lot of fun. The projections on the wall were great, but what drew everybody's attention was the magic mirror. Girls (or guys as shown above) can stand in front of the mirror and play dress up without having to mess up your closet. I'm sure by the time it's released, girls can even spend all of their parent's money on the latest clothing after trying them on!  

Party Tent

 

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Sign the guestbook, digitally of course!

More Surface, and even Karaoke

The last room is called the "Party Tent" and it certainly evokes feelings of being in a big fair tent, with so many devices stuffed into the room and letting visitors have full reign on them. From the four Surface tables, to the 4 Blackbird stations (bottom left), to the Zune, Karaoke, and of course...the HP Media Connect station, the Party Tent basically gives visitors one last chance to play with their favorite toy before leaving. Unfortunately nobody had the courage to do karaoke--either that, or they just could not pull themselves away from the Surface tables, which got cooler the more I saw people interacting with them.  

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Blackbird Gaming Center

Design your own Dream Home

They even had a station where you could design your own DreamHome, and then e-mail them to yourself. I spared myself the spam-friendly device, but I'd imagine that will be how all these sponsors are able to reach out to interested visitors. And that's a good transition to my final thoughts... 

Gallery

  

To give you an even better idea of the home, I've uploaded a video tour of the home produced by Disney:

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I also got my hands on some very professional photos around the house. Warning though, some of these are fairly big in size.

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Innoventions Sign
Massive size of the attraction
 
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 Magic Mirror...  More appropriate on her

 

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Kitchen Countertop with Lillian

 

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Fireplace Son's Bedroom

Final Thoughts

 

When I first saw the press reports about the Innovation Home at Disneyland, all I remember seeing were all the sponsors being mentioned often--HP, Seimens, EI, etc. The actual attraction, however, has little in the way of product branding with the exception of the logos on the devices. There are no product brochures, no pamphlets, no upsells...heck, no selling at all. For the uninformed, that really allows you to be thrown into the technology itself and not even enter the equation how much anything costs. I'm not sure it helps the sales numbers though, and I personally would have welcomed some small cards or brochures for the items available at retail today. I cannot stand going to shows and having pamphlets forced on me, but if I am interested in a product, I want to learn more about it! This is really where the "Design a dream home" station comes into play, so I hope visitors are aware of that and take advantage.

Overall, the Innovations Home was a fantastic experience. Being able to tour with the regular crowd really let me appreciate how the average visitor would take on all the devices--whether they would be overwhelmed, unimpressed or genuinely excited. I think the home succeeds most clearly in the fact that 8 year old kids could not stop playing with the Surface tablets, and my 27-year old self could not stop staring at the gorgeous 100" television!

With a home this elaborate, there's always the concern of staying current, but I've been assured by HP that they are working extremely close with Disney to make sure the house has room to grow. Appropriately located in Tomorrowland, it really is a home anyone would be lucky to live in (minus the crowds and hot dog prices, of course).

I would like to send a special thanks to HP for their time and efforts in getting me down there, and my fellow bloggers Brandon LeBlanc from Vista Team Blog , and Michael Reyes from HardwareGeeks.com .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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