For access to the goodies inside the house proper, Panasonic has installed an iris scanner for authorised staff, although we imagine such unfriendly tech isn’t going to be on the shopping list of many real homeowners.
Once inside, we found a pleasant wood-themed house that – in spite of its green credentials – was still filled with consumer gadgetry. Even the bathroom has an internet-connected TV to go with the programmable bath and shower.
Futurism is all curvy edges...
The kitchen is the one area where the ‘Universal Design’ aspect of the Eco & UD House’s name comes to the fore. For most people, having a living space that’s comfortable clearly comes streets ahead of owning the best home cinema or entertainment robot. And this is where the kitchen excels.
Rounded corners and easy-access storage spaces are the order of the day – something that can make the difference between being independent or, if you're an elderly resident, reliant on others.
A bedroom (also designed for Japan's older generation) includes voice-controlled lighting and curtains and a strong emphasis on comfort.
Even the plastered walls use non-allergenic materials.
Elsewhere at Panasonic, we also got to see another concept using RFID food tags and a talking handheld reader that could help visually impaired people work out what’s in the fridge. A taste test doesn’t have to be the only way to tell the difference between a bottle of olive oil and a litre of Smirnoff.
The living room of the future
The centrepiece of Panasonic's Eco & UD House is clearly the living room, which was dominated by one of Panasonic's enormous 103-inch plasma TVs.
As you can probably guess, this gave an impressive window on every aspect of the home - from displaying feeds from the interior and exterior cameras to the entire security and energy systems.
Unlike most TV remotes these days, the controller for what Panasonic called the 'Ubiquitous Living Room' had only a few buttons and was easy to use, in keeping with the Universal Design ethos that the house is trying to embody.
The command-tower nature of the living room summed up the Eco House in many ways. Although being able to keep every finger on the pulse at all times is appealing in many ways, it has to be said that there was a certain impersonal froideur about a lot of the technology on show.
It would be easy to poke fun at an unrealistic Jetsons-like vision of the future that, because of cost dictates, clearly can’t be available to everyone. But we have to applaud the spirit of Panasonic's Eco House and look forward to seeing how much of its green tech really becomes part of our lives.