Salone del Mobile Milano

Trend research: Phygital House
Hyper-connected and intelligent Living

[…] I think this is the shape of things to come: invisible design, where things magically happen around me.

(Yves Béhar, Designer)

In July 2016 Boon Sheridan, a resident of Holyoke, Massachusetts, became aware of a strange throng of people around his home, a deconsecrated former church. This was no religious pilgrimage, however, and it took Boon only a matter of seconds to realise that “his” home had become a hunting ground for Pokemon, the creatures featured in the famous videogame, which have pervaded the physical world thanks to the smartphone version of the game, Pokemon Go, which has become a global phenomenon, making Augmented Reality into a tool that is accessible to all. 


The idea that what we regard as our own home can take on different meanings for other people in a simulated world has strong visionary power but perhaps it is no mere chance that a habitation can become the crucial point at which the real and virtual worlds collide. The phygital dimension – the neologism is born of the combination of the words physic and digital – is a condition that characterises the digital ecosystem in which people today live and consume, and of which the home is an integral part.

The steady encroachment of virtual reality and our ever-increasing state of connection are turning the home into a space criss-crossed by flows of relationships and information that inhabit it to the same degree as those who occupy it physically, “opening” it out to virtual interaction with the outside world as if it were merely a fragment of a global hyper-habitation lived in by millions of people.  

Domotics is a field that has been spoken of for many years, yet it is only recently that the tangible repercussions of the application of the new technologies – and the Internet of Things in particular – have made themselves felt in habitative spaces. The domestic environment and the objects within it, from the electrical appliances to the furnishings, lend themselves beautifully to becoming the new bridges between the physical and digital worlds, rendering all the aspects of the management and organisation of living more “intelligent” and more fluid. 


The August Home Access System, designed by Yves Béhar, is just one such example. It is a system that revolutionises the way people interact with their homes. Once installed, it works like a sort of smartphone-operated digital concierge, enabling doors to be opened remotely and creating virtual keys that allow relatives, friends or delivery people to enter the home when no-one is available to let them in. A one-way video-camera captures images of whoever rings the bell, which can be physically viewed from anywhere and in real time so that a decision can be made as to whether to let them in or not. Unique verification access codes can also be provided to trusted people. "It's where the future of technology and the home come together", says Béhar.

In this new domestic scenario, design weaves an invisible web that seamlessly connects the on and offline dimensions in an experiential continuum. This seamless, junction-free network turns the habitative space into a dynamic, thinking ecosystem, capable of almost “magically” understanding and responding to the wishes of its inhabitants.

This macro-trend takes three different forms, represented by the following micro-trends: Instant Need Design, Smart Objects and Augmented Design.