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Your Future Home

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Smart fridge
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Illustrations by Oksana Badrak

Put your assembled frozen fixings into GE's new Profile Advantium, for instance, and it will defrost them via microwave, then roast and grill with a combination of halogen lights and microwave energy, cooking up to eight times faster than a conventional oven. Upgrading that smart oven so it can take directions from a phone app or the fridge is just a matter of connecting everything.

Courtesy of that connectivity, when the fridge light is burnt out and the HVAC needs new filters, they'll connect to the Internet and order parts. They might even download the instructions for manufacturing them to the 3-D printer in the garage. Yes, really. Machines that can print simple toys, like MakerBot's $2,200 Replicator 2, are already here. These machines will only get cheaper and more sophisticated, says Gerardo Menegaz, chief architect for IBM Global Technology Services. Using a 3-D printer to manufacture our own dishes, appliance parts or other custom creations is just a matter of time.

On the laundry frontier, well, washing clothes is apparently still a little too complicated for true automation. However, those same RFID tags that are coming to groceries might also be sewn into garments. As clothes hit the washer, it will scan those tags for instructions and sound a warning if, for example, something red is about to turn all the whites pink or a dry-clean-only item slipped in. Or waterless washing closets could steam clean clothes after you hang them up, says Kurt Jovais, VP of Home Appliances for Samsung.

In our minds, all this potential boils down to three words that have never rung more true: home sweet home.

The Ultimate Home Makeover

Current thinking. Solar panels on the roof, wind turbines in the yard and hydrogen fuel cells in the basement will provide alternatives to old-fashioned electricity and afford more control over the utility bill.

Keyless entry. A camera embedded in the door will let your dog in and out, but not the neighbor's cat.

Pull up a chair. Lounge chairs could also be "smart," sporting a computer brain and constant Internet connection.

24/7 comfort. Shades will stay shut until it's time to wake up, then open to let in light.

Window dressing. Microsoft is developing "magic windows" that become interactive displays with the tap of a finger.

DIY 3-D. Researchers are working on in-home 3-D printers able to layer multiple materials into a single object.

The self-aware fridge. Soon, standing in the supermarket wondering whether you have fresh fruit in your refrigerator will be a thing of the past -- an app on your smartphone will simply "ask" the fridge. You may even get a suggested recipe to use up items nearing expiration.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.