The House Of The Future

The last thousand years have seen dramatic changes in the human home: flush toilets, electric lights and air-conditioning, among them.

Now, as the millennium approaches, we're looking ahead to what could be the ultimate dream home. From Japan, CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports.

The great thing about life in the 21st century, they say, is how much it will be easier when you get home. In Tokyo the folks at Panasonic have built a mockup of what they call the house of the future.

If there is nobody home, it is no problem. You can leave a video message.

The video message might be delivered on a fancy cell phone, which by then will be playing video messages.

And, you'll be able to open the door remotely.

Forget email. In the future it's going to be vmail, or video mail, and it starts when you do a fingerprint analysis to let the computer know you're home.

Sensors then note your presence, turn on the lights and set each room's temperature to your preference, or fire up the 500-channel, 50-inch plasma TV, which can store a hundred hours of TV programs in the main home computer.

Tucked away in a closet somewhere are the brains of the house and the high-speed data link that brings the outside world in.

There'll be something that controls the TV satellite, and something that sends information around the house and stores all your favorite movies and the software - everything that makes the house of the future run smoothly.

Upon entering the kitchen of the future, what should be done first?

"You access the cook information center," explains Tamako Mizaywa.

You choose your meal, and you guessed it, the computer uses the Internet to message the online grocer who delivers the ingredients.

Dinner still has to be cooked. OK, it's very easy because this system automatically sends the cooking data to the network microwave oven.

The instructions are at the microwave. It already knows how to cook everything. So take the just delivered groceries, put them in and push the button. And presto: a super chef, thanks to the computer.

Even the toilet will be wired to weigh you, measure body fat and analyze urine.

It is all part of a home high-tech medical system that lets you check your vital signs, such as temperature or heart rate and send it off to a clinic. And, with a tiny video camera, the doctor can make a house call by computer.

What's here is neither far-fetched nor far away. Most of these things will be on the market in a few years. A brave new world in our homes is no farther away than our fingertips.

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