10 Home Innovations of the Future That Didnt Make It

Posted by

Home Improvement
Kitchensense futuristic model kitchen concept, 1968
What happened to the circular kitchen design from the 1960s? To learn more, check out these home design pictures!
Wesley/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As someone who reads a lot about technological advancements, home technology is especially intriguing as it is where most of us spend the majority of our time. However, I have read many articles about the latest and greatest in home innovations only to wonder a few years later – what happened to them? Sometimes, great ideas are too ahead of their time, while other times, the person or company behind them does not have the ability to get things rolling, or the idea turns out to be too costly or impractical to implement in everyday life.

Searching online for future home innovations brings up some incredible videos, many of which are sponsored by appliance or power companies. While many of the features are recognizable, there are still quite a few that never made it past the demonstration stage. Although some of these ideas are amusing, it is difficult not to get swept up in the optimism and confidence of improving life through innovation. In the Atomic Age following World War II, anything seemed possible, but throughout the years, many people have thought they had the “next big thing.” Let’s take a look at some future home innovations that actually did not come to fruition.

10: Underwater Cities

SEALAB III, launched in 1969, was the last undersea habitat built by the U.S. Navy.
OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP); U.S. Navy

While NASA was busy trying to put a man on the moon, we also began to consider the possibility of colonizing our own planet. It could even be a good test run for living on the moon, as well as allowing us to test living in an isolated environment and conduct research experiments.

The U.S. government has been involved in several underwater habitats. The U.S. Navy built SEALAB I, an experimental underwater habitat, in 1964 and sunk it 192 feet (58 meters) below sea level. SEALAB II and III followed. Tektite, built by General Electric and funded by NASA, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, was another research facility in the late 1960s.

There were also private ventures. Famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau built the Conshelf habitats in the mid-1960s, with the deepest being around 336 feet (102 meters). However, it didn’t take long for innovators to consider longer-term living. At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the Futurama II exhibit presented by General Motors included an undersea hotel. In 1971, a group of British investors designed models for an entire city underwater, to be built in the Black Sea and named Pilkington Sea City.

Today, there are still underwater research facilities and a few underwater hotels, but no cities. Why not? One significant problem is decompression sickness, or “the bends,” which is a potentially fatal condition related to the fact that water exerts twice as much pressure on our bodies as air. Maintaining the correct atmosphere, as well as providing supplies, is complicated and expensive. This is probably why a night in the Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida (a remodeled underwater research habitat built in the early 1970s) costs more than $500 and is only around 30 feet below.

9: Nuclear Power in Homes

If you went to Tomorrowland in Disneyland between 1957 and 1967, you might have seen Monsanto’s House of the Future. Among its many features, one that seems unimaginable today is a small nuclear power plant inside the house’s support pylon. The voiceover explained that “the entire house’s electricity and centralized heating are provided by a small nuclear power plant, completely shielded with plastic for complete safety.”

However, the idea of a small nuclear power plant in homes is highly controversial today due to over 50 accidents at nuclear power plants since Chernobyl in 1986. Although there are still many nuclear power plants in operation worldwide, nobody wants to live near one. The House of Tomorrow opened when the Atomic Age was in full swing, and people thought that nuclear power would revolutionize transportation and energy. But today, we need more than plastic to protect us from nuclear radiation, and self-sufficient homes that are “off the grid” are not yet common.

8: Biospheres

Biospheres, or closed ecological systems, are man-made environments where every waste produced by an organism is used by another organism within the system. Biospheres have been used to experiment with the idea of self-sufficient living for long-term space missions. The first biosphere was built in Russia in the 1960s and used chlorella algae to recycle air and grow crops. BIOS-3 was in use until 1984 and had a longest occupancy of 180 days. Biosphere-2 was built in the United States in the late 1980s for similar experiments.

The concept of biospheres is important for space exploration because transporting supplies to space colonies is expensive. A viable space colony would have to eventually become self-sufficient to sustain life.

On its second mission, Biosphere-2 included not only crops for food, but also other plants and animals. The mission ended abruptly in September 1994 after 10 months, with animals dying, oxygen levels dropping, and people going hungry. Most significantly, the inhabitants fought and formed factions due to the psychological effects of being sealed in with colleagues. Despite ultimately failing to achieve its mission, some view Biosphere-2 as a “successful failure” because valuable lessons were learned. However, it seems unlikely that self-sufficient biospheres will become a reality anytime soon.

7: Moon Colony

This NASA artist’s rendering of an inflatable lunar habitat from 1989 hasn’t come to fruition yet, but will a moon colony eventually become a reality?
Public Domain

In 1969, the United States became the first country to put a man on the moon, achieving a goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Although NASA sent men back to the moon several more times, interest in exploring it waned. However, in recent years, probes have returned varying reports about the potential of water on the moon’s surface, which would be useful for a colony. While some countries and space organizations have plans for temporary outposts or permanent bases on the moon, there are still logistical challenges to overcome, such as long-term sources of food, water, power, and atmosphere, as well as handling low gravity and political ownership. Despite these challenges, it’s possible that a moon colony could exist in the future, but the author doesn’t see themselves living there.

6: Flying Houses

Unless you count really luxurious private planes, we don’t have flying houses yet.
Peter Dazeley/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

While the convenience of flying your house from place to place might seem appealing, the reality is that we don’t even have flying cars yet, despite nearly a century of research. So, it’s unlikely that flying houses will become a reality anytime soon.

Not everyone has a personal aircraft for transportation, despite futuristic home models from the past featuring hangars and landing pads for flying. At the time, it seemed logical that personal aircraft costs would decrease and flying would become the primary mode of transportation, but fuel expenses and the difficulty of creating “skyways” across the country were not anticipated. The practicality of having a flying house is questionable, as typical houses are not designed for air flight and the fuel required to propel such weight would be costly. The closest option to a flying house currently is a luxurious private or chartered jet, equipped with large seats, beds, bathrooms, and kitchens. However, these options come with a high price tag and are not affordable for most people.

The House of the Future, built almost entirely from plastics and other man-made materials, was another futuristic home model from the past. In the 1950s, plastic became cheaper and easier to make, making it seem like the perfect material for building homes. Plastics could be made in various textures, shapes, and colors, and were impermeable, unbreakable, and easy to clean. However, current knowledge of the environmental and health effects of certain plastics has led people to be more cautious about their use. Moreover, people still prefer traditional and comfortable materials like wood and fabric for their homes. Despite this, architects and designers are exploring the use of recycled plastics in home insulation and framework. However, these concepts are far from the plastic house concepts of the past.

4: The All-In-One Kitchen

In the past, model homes of the future were heavily focused on showcasing innovative kitchen features. While living rooms and bedrooms have remained relatively unchanged, kitchens have evolved to include numerous appliances and gadgets designed to make life easier. However, some designers believed that traditional kitchens with stoves, refrigerators, and cabinets full of appliances were outdated. Instead, they created hidden kitchens that looked like regular rooms with panels on the walls and ceiling. Pushing a button would reveal the sink, microwave, or even a “cold zone” cabinet to keep perishables at the right temperature. While this concept may seem cool, it’s impractical to have so many moving parts that require maintenance and can break down. An automated kitchen also wastes energy, and relying on multiple buttons to access appliances can become irritating. Therefore, incorporating newer appliances like microwaves and dishwashers into the existing kitchen structure is a more practical solution.

3: The Evolution of Freeze-Drying

Freeze-drying has been used for centuries, with indigenous Peruvians preserving potatoes by freezing them and allowing the sun to dry them. During World War II, freeze-drying was even used to transport biomedical products like serum, which requires refrigeration. Now, freeze-drying is used to preserve food. The process involves freezing food with dry ice or nitrogen, then heating it under a vacuum to create a lightweight, porous material. When rehydrated with hot or cold water, the texture and taste of the food is often different from the original. Therefore, while freeze-drying is an ingenious way to preserve food, it’s not the solution for all future foods.

During space missions, astronauts and cosmonauts preserved their food in various ways, including freeze-drying and consuming pureed and concentrated foods from toothpaste-like tubes. Although some kitchen designs were created to rehydrate or cook with food concentrates, freeze-dried products remain popular today, such as instant coffee. However, whole foods have not been replaced by these products. Novelty items like astronaut ice cream and Space Food Sticks are available at space-related sites, but the Neapolitan-flavored ice cream was only used once due to its unpopularity.

Videophones have not yet become the norm, but they may become more popular in the near future. While people can currently use Skype or FaceTime via smartphones or computers, a dedicated videophone that is used all the time instead of a voice-based phone may become more common. Early videophones were a series of still images accompanying a traditional telephone call, but not actual streaming, real-time video. Although video telephony via computer is growing in popularity, most phone calls are still audio-only. This may be because people do not want to look presentable for every call or prefer face-to-face conversations. Although video telephony is improving, it can still be jerky, causing frustration if the audio and video do not synch. Videophones have been beneficial for the deaf and for specialized uses, but TV-sized calling screens have not yet become commonplace.

1: Domestic Robots

The concept of having robotic servants like in “The Jetsons” is still mostly confined to science fiction. Although you can purchase robots to vacuum, mop, or mow, there are no robots that can cook, clean bathrooms, or wash windows. Even prototypes that can iron or fold laundry are not readily available. The lack of standardization in hardware and software, as well as the difficulty in teaching robots to do human-like tasks, are some of the reasons why robots in the home are not yet commonplace. However, advancements in wireless technology and voice recognition, as well as decreasing hardware costs, may make it possible for robots to take over household tasks in the future. Until then, you can use your refrigerator’s WiFi-enabled LCD panel to check emails while cleaning the kitchen.

Lots More Information

Author’s Note: 10 Future Home Innovations … That Weren’t

As a child, I watched shorts and clips of futuristic home models full of optimism about the future. While many of the features never came to pass, some, like microwave ovens, became household staples. These films provide a fun and sometimes laughable look into the past. Every breakthrough is accompanied by missteps and failures, but it is all part of the learning process.

More Articles on the Subject

  • 10 Architects Who are Pushing the Boundaries of Design
  • The Future of Architecture
  • What Will Our Homes Look Like in 50-100 Years?
  • Glimpse into the Future: Pictures of Incredible Homes
  • How to Rebuild Communities After the Foreclosure Crisis?

Sources of Information

  • Dismukes, Kim. “Space Food.” NASA Human Spaceflight. Nov. 25, 2003. (June 16, 2012) http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/living/spacefood/
  • Flying Car Reviews (June 16, 2012) http://www.flyingcarreviews.com/uses-for-flying-cars/
  • Gates, Bill. “A Robot in Every Home.” Scientific American. Dec. 16, 2006. (June 16, 2012) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-robot-in-every-home
  • Globus, Al. “Closed Ecosystems.” NASA Astrobiology. July 10, 2002. (June 15, 2012) http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/teacher/course/ecosys.html
  • Gray, Richard. “Top 10 ‘innovations’ that should’ve changed the world…but didn’t manage it.” The Telegraph. March 16, 2008. (June 15, 2012) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/4985234/Top-10-innovations-that-should-have-changed-the-world-but-didnt-manage-it.html
  • Guizzo, Erico. “10 stats you should know about robots but never bothered Googling up.” IEEE Spectrum. March 21, 2008. (June 15, 2012) http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-software/10_stats_you_should_know_about_robots
  • Jules’ Undersea Lodge (June 15, 2012) http://www.jul.com/mediainfo.html
  • McGlaun, Shaun. “National Geographic makes real flying house from animated flick ‘Up!’” Slashgear.com. March 7, 2011. (June 15, 2012) http://www.slashgear.com/national-geographic-makes-real-flying-house-from-animated-flick-up-07138256/
  • Milo, Paul. “100 Years of Failure: 10 Technologies We Were Promised But Never Got.” Gizmodo. Dec. 10, 2009. (June 16, 2012) http://gizmodo.com/5423510/100-years-of-failure-10-technologies-we-were-promised-but-never-got
  • NASA. “NEEMO – NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations.” (June 16, 2012) http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NEEMO/index.html
  • National Park Service. “House of Tomorrow.” 2012. (June 16, 2012) http://www.nps.gov/indu/historyculture/house-of-tomorrow.htm
  • National Public Radio. “Beyond Tang: Food in Space.” June 7, 2007. (June 16, 2012) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10792763
  • Nissan. “Dressman, the ironing robot.” May 26, 2004. (June 15, 2012) http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/process_engineering/report-29650.html
  • Office of Naval Research. “People Under the Sea: Habitats — SEALAB.” (June 16, 2012) http://www.onr.navy.mil/focus/blowballast/people/habitats2.htm
  • Pescovitz, David. “French Art from 1910 Depicting 2000.” Boing Boing. Sept. 12, 2007. (June 16, 2012) http://boingboing.net/2007/09/12/french-art-from-1910.html
  • Scanlon, Lisa. “The House of the Future That Wasn’t.” MIT Technology Review. January 2005. (June 15, 2012) http://www.technologyreview.com/mitnews/403523/the-house-of-the-future-that-wasnt/
  • Sovacool, Benjamin. “Second Thoughts About Nuclear Power.” National Unversity of Singapore. 2011. (June 15, 2012) http://www.spp.nus.edu.sg/docs/policy-briefs/201101_RSU_PolicyBrief_1-2nd_Thought_Nuclear-Sovacool.pdf
  • Stabile, Matt. “Whatever happened to Biosphere-2?” The Expeditioner. April 26, 2011. (June 16, 2012) http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2011/04/26/what-ever-happened-to-biosphere-2/
  • Szondy, David. “Tales of Future Past.” (June 16, 2012) http://davidszondy.com/future/futurepast.htm
  • Tate, Austin. “Sea City.” University of Edinburgh. (June 16, 2012) http://www.aiai.ed.ac.uk/~bat/sea-city.html
  • Valhouli, Christina. “5 spots for undersea luxury.” CNN Money. 2012. (June 15, 2012) http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/news/0710/gallery.underwaterwonders/index.html



What are some innovative ideas for future homes?

Some innovative ideas for future homes include self-sustaining homes with renewable energy sources, smart homes that use AI to control various functions, and homes with 3D printing technology that can be customized to fit the owner’s needs.


How can homes become more energy-efficient in the future?

Homes can become more energy-efficient in the future by using renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines, implementing smart home technology to optimize energy usage, and using materials that are more insulating to reduce heating and cooling costs.


What are some advantages of using 3D printing technology in home construction?

Some advantages of using 3D printing technology in home construction include faster construction times, reduced waste, and the ability to customize the home to fit the owner’s needs. Additionally, 3D printing technology can use sustainable materials, making it an eco-friendly choice.


What are some ways that smart home technology can make our lives easier?

Smart home technology can make our lives easier by automating tasks such as turning off lights or adjusting the thermostat, providing security features such as facial recognition or motion sensors, and allowing us to control various functions of the home through voice commands or a mobile app.


How can homes become more sustainable in the future?

Homes can become more sustainable in the future by using renewable energy sources, implementing water conservation measures such as rainwater harvesting or greywater recycling, and using sustainable materials in construction and furniture.


What are some disadvantages of using 3D printing technology in home construction?

Some disadvantages of using 3D printing technology in home construction include the high cost of equipment and materials, limitations in the size and complexity of structures that can be built, and the need for skilled technicians to operate the equipment.


What are some potential safety concerns with smart home technology?

Some potential safety concerns with smart home technology include the risk of hacking or cyber attacks, the possibility of malfunctioning devices causing damage or injury, and the collection and misuse of personal data by companies that provide smart home technology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *