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Marketers Take a Trip to 2020 in News Corp.'s Home of the Future

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A wardrobe that matches your outfit to the weather forecast. An online shopping assistant who knows you well enough to purchase new products for you. Art that adjusts itself to your mood.

These futuristic concepts are a reality in a 2,000 square foot “Home of the Future,” created by News Corp. and ad tech company Unruly in partnership with marketers including Amazon Launchpad, PepsiCo, Heineken, eBay, Unilever, HTC, Nokia Health, and Tesco.

The installation opening today in London has been created to give marketers and agencies a first-hand experience of the connected home, and a chance to think about how they might use it to engage consumers. It will be a permanent fixture at Unruly’s London office and a pop-up version will be installed at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity next month. Another temporary version has been set up at Unruly’s New York office.

Unruly will add new partners and update the space regularly – runway show holograms and virtual furniture installations are not far off – as well as introducing seasonal and thematic experiences for Christmas or major sporting events.

Regular Facebook Live streams will bring audiences into the home, and provide updates on the latest “technosocial” trends and innovations.

The first iteration of the home is a deliberately cozy space. It’s all soft lighting and inviting textures, with vintage pieces mixed in among the new technology, to conjure up a home with character that’s an escape from the outside world.

Ad Age’s personal Future Home experience was hosted by Simon Gosling, the futurist who has been working exclusively on the project since he joined Unruly in November last year.

Simon Gosling and Ad Age London editor Emma Hall
Simon Gosling and Ad Age London editor Emma Hall Credit: Unruly

“Home is the next and most powerful marketing canvas,” said Gosling. “The rules are changing … we are stepping towards a new ecosystem of machines, screens and devices, where brands can share stories with consumers in their homes.”

As well as novelties like a kitchen that tells you what to cook based on what’s in your fridge, and a hallway that says hello, the Future Home is also equipped with state-of-the-art security systems, virtual reality and augmented reality screens and headsets. It also has the latest gadgets like an alarm clock that both wakes you up and puts you to sleep, bathroom scales that also test your blood pressure, and even a robot cat that meows on cue.

Artificial Intelligence is hardest at work in the kitchen, which is stocked with brands from Unilever and supermarket chain Tesco. In this room you can give your AI system a budget and a license to search for deals from different brands and supermarkets. And cooking becomes simple, as your fridge talks you through every step of a recipe and then alerts the family when dinner’s ready.

You might find a new item in your shopping basket that’s been placed there as a free sample, based on your preferences, and then let the AI assistant know whether you like it and if you would recommend it to friends.

Much of the technology is voice-activated. “By January, Amazon had sold 11 million Alexa devices, and by 2020 Alexa is expected to have added $11 billion of revenue,” Gosling said, as evidence that voice control will play a key role in interactions of the future.

“This is about helping brands to understand new technology,” Gosling said. “Normally there’s a lag where brands get into a space after the consumer, but we have identified where consumers will be in 2020 so we can get there before them. We are being disruptive in our own business.”

Asked if the future home will be for the wealthy, Gosling said, “Everyone’s got a phone. Everyone’s got a TV. And millions of people have got an Alexa.”

News Corp. bought video advertising company Unruly for $176 million in 2015. News Corp. brands, including Dow Jones (which has created a hologram to bring the stock market to life), publisher HarperCollins, and foodie site Taste.com.au, are evident throughout the Future Home.

So why is a video advertising company launching a home of the future? An Unruly statement said, “Unruly get brands’ videos seen, shared and loved. We do this on mobile and desktop… and we’ll continue to do so in the next era of advertising, which is the connected home… We’ve built Home to study the development of this new platform, enabling us to guide our clients in this exciting new frontier.”

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