Check out the smart, everyday home technology in this Ikea catalogue from the future

27 Oct 2015

Detail from the Near Future Laboratory’s Ikea catalogue, a work of design fiction

If we’re heading towards a future of making everyday household items high tech, it follows that the Ikea catalogue will be where many of us start dreaming up our perfect smart homes.

The tech-obsessed spend a lot of time dreaming of the homes of the future and all the potential technology we’ll be able to pack into it. In many ways, the future is now, and the internet of things has become so talked about as to be near the peak of its hype cycle.

But after the hype there’ll be more innovation to be seen, and that has been envisioned by those at the Near Future Laboratory, a thinking, making, design, development and research practice based in California and Europe.

Collaborators at the Near Future Laboratory sometimes produce works they describe as ‘design fiction’, and this latest one stems from a workshop conducted at the Mobile Life Center in Stockholm where the brief was to consider the internet of things as seen through an Ikea catalogue.

Near Future Laboratory Ikea catalogue

Image via Julian Bleecker/Medium

“Why did we choose an Ikea catalogue? Because it is one of the more compelling ways to represent normal, ordinary, everyday life in many parts of the world,” wrote Near Future Laboratory team member Julian Bleecker in a Medium post about the project.

“The Ikea catalogue contains the routine furnishings of a normative everyday life. It’s a container of life’s essentials and accessories which can be extrapolated from today’s normal into tomorrow’s normal.”

Near Future Laboratory Ikea catalogue

Image via Julian Bleecker/Medium

The design fiction process requires forward-thinking concepts to be followed through as deeply as possible and every proposition from the workshop had to stand up to scrutiny, as if it was a real-life product pitch.

The resulting eight-page document from the imagined future sticks to the comfortingly familiar format of the Ikea catalogue, but the Scandinavian furniture and fittings have been enhanced with technology, and also upgraded to match new business models.

Not only is there a counter-top that can weigh your ingredients while delivering instructions on how to prepare recipes from around the world, but there’s also a subscription service add-on to give diet advice based on your Ikea customer profile.

Or how about a biometrically secured smart pantry that stocks up for you, in exchange for a monthly fee?

Even textiles have been souped-up, with a light-emitting curtain for a futuristic four-poster bed.

Near Future Laboratory Ikea catalogue

Image via Near Future Laboratory

The Design Fiction Ikea catalogue is available as a free download via the Near Future Laboratory’s online store.

Gigglebit is’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.