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My Disneyland Dream Home Experience

I found the exhibit in the heart of the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland to be a notch above what most of us have seen over the years.

The Innoventions Dream Home is located in the heart of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland section.As I sat there, my flight delayed at Chicagos OHare Airport I pondered the carbon footprint required to get me from Carmel, Indiana, to Anaheim, California. I was on my way to attend the grand-opening festivities for Disneys Innoventions Dream Home, and the only reason I was going was because of my respect for the folks at Exceptional Innovation whose Life-ware brand was one of the core technologies in the home and one that is increasingly more important to the custom installation channel. Otherwise, when it comes to Homes of the Future and Technology Dream Home tours, Ive been there and done that enough times.

Forgetting for the moment the environmental impact of my journey, I found the exhibit in the heart of the Tomorrowland section of Disneyland to be a notch above what most of us have seen over the years from Life-ware and Microsoft at trade shows and special events. While much of the Media Center PC backbone and Life-ware digital secret sauce have become old hat to me, the integration of this technology with such an abundance of gear (especially a ton of HP digital photo frames) and some gimmicky fun stuff from Disney, gave the home an amped up feel.

There were too many digital photo frames. What made the Dream Home, a collaboration between Disneyland Resort, Microsoft, Life-ware, Hewlett Packard, and home builder Taylor Morrison, stand out compared with the integration gems that weve all become accustomed to seeing, were several special technical flourishes. Among them were a game table of four 42-inch LCD monitors that via RFID technology, would simulate the download of photos from a camera phone, scattering them across the displays as if they were actual photo prints being dumped from your hands. The really cool part, however, was that each photo could be grabbed and manipulated, iPhone style, enabling a sharing of vacation photos, for example, or a digital scrapbooking exercise. The same RFID technology also encoded display case items, like an Eiffel Tower statue, that when placed in the center of a bookshelf, would trigger a digital collage of photos from Paris on the wall displays.

She’s not dealing blackjack. The LCD screens are showing “downloaded” photos from a picture phone. Another fun technology piece was an enhanced product from Microsoft that enabled an actor in the Dream Home to stand in front of a mirror and sample outfits that were stored in the homes server. It was a cute feature that, while not that realistic for most homes, seemed like something out of Disney movie or something that has already found its way to retail sales floors.

Another fun area was the sons bedroom which featured a Peter Pan theme that, when the story was read aloud by one of Dream Home’s actors, would trigger Peter Pan movie video images to project on the sail of the boys ship-shape bed and facing wall and trigger wind chimes to shake when Tinkerbelle flew past, etc. This was Disney magic at work, but not really something that would appear in most homes of today or the near future.

Despite these gee-whiz moments, the big message for the home didnt really revolve around the future so much as technology that is available right now or very shortly. The number we kept hearing was that 65-70 percent of the technology in the home was available right now, while the rest was future stuff. For Life-ware that number jumped to 95 percent of available-now technology, their five percent of future-looking technology being special RFID recognition programming that triggered scenes and themes when tagged actors stepped into a certain room of the house.

He really shouldn’t be playing in his sister’s room.

My overall impression of the exhibit was that it will simply blow away most visitors the will walk through it. Face it, most of your high-end clients who already own Dream Homes of their very own, wouldnt be all that impressed by what is on display at Disneyland, but then again I cant picture most of your wealthiest clientele parading around in the hot sun and waiting in lines for an hour to ride Space Mountain either. This project is for the general population and most of them don’t have a clue that anything more than computers and digital photo frames even exist.

This project, for those who invested months and years of man-hours and a obviously a huge financial commitment, will be serving the greater need for our industry to promote what we can do. The actors who populate the Dream Home are encouraged to steer all tough technical questions back to Dad who knows to direct all interested parties to manufacturer websites who then direct leads to their dealers. Also, Taylor Morrison has a kiosk designed to enable visitors to select features for their own dream home, including the kinds of technology that they would really like to see in their house. Demographic data from these surveys will be collected, and that information will guide all participants in this project toward better solutions in the future.

The man of the hour, Life-ware’s new VP of marketing, Bret Fitzgerald, in front of one of his control screensIt should be interesting to see what they find out. People will either be really excited and want to take out a bank loan tomorrow to buy this stuff, or will be completely freaked out by everything they saw and choose the “simple life” instead. I think they’ll be pretty excited, unless they’re scared of clowns and “re-enactors” like I am. Then again, if that was the case, they probably wouldn’t have come to Disneyland in the first place.