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Voice Activation, Extreme Customization Highlight ‘Home of the Future’ at Kitchen, Bath, & Builders Industry Show

Among the functional innovation at KBIS: Wilsonart’s Material Mixology helps designers see how various materials can work together seamlessly

ORLANDO, FL – The magic in Orlando last week didn’t occur only at Cinderella’s castle.

The smart home of the future – one’s own potential castle – was on display at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) which ended here on Thursday. One of the biggest takeaways: Just because someone talks to their refrigerator doesn’t mean that they’re slightly off their rocker – or that they’re auditioning for a Disney film.
Innovation came in many forms, but voice activation helped lead the way.
Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerators allow users to control their homes with their voice: “Bixby Voice assistant takes center stage on the new Family Hub 3.0. Bixby lets you call up calendar meetings, traffic, weather, news and much more. You can now update your shopping list, dictate notes and even have customized information delivered to individual family members based on voice recognition. Bixby takes Family Hub to the next level with a truly seamless experience.”
With a WiFi-connected tablet integrated into the door panel, the fridge once again becomes the center of family life. Hands full with groceries? No problem – just talk to the fridge. Smart home appliances won’t stop there, according to GE Appliances CCO Rick Hasselbeck, who spoke on a “State of the Industry” panel. The next step is the ability to diagnose and/or fix products without sending anyone into the home.
Moen worked with Amazon’s Alexa to allow users to talk to their shower: “Alexa, tell Moen to turn on my shower to 103 degrees.”
But if voice activation was one key trend driving the next generation of homes, another was extreme customization – even in the most functional of products.

“Alexa, tell Moen to turn on my shower to 103 degrees.”

Wilsonart Engineered Surfaces of Austin, TX puts customization throughout their range of surfaces and solutions – from laminate to solid surfaces to quartz and beyond. At KBIS, the global operator (Wilsonart is in more than 100 countries) introduced new laminate designs – including a breakthrough “Soft Silk” finish that is silky to the touch – as well as new quartz and solid surface designs.

Given the smart technology advances evident at the show, Wilsonart showed how the rest of the home can keep up. Indeed, with its digital Virtual Design Library, Wilsonart enables designers and architects to see how various materials can work together seamlessly – they call it “Material Mixology” – allowing them to find whole home solutions from a single source. This may sound simple, but innovations like this that enable customers to better articulate what they want is creating value and driving efficiency across the building products sector.
In fact, another place where Wilsonart showed new innovation is a place where Moen brought Amazon’s Alexa – to the shower. With its brand new WetWall functionality, Wilsonart provides builders, particularly in the hospitality industry, a way to cut days off of the construction calendar by providing a fashion-forward tile replacement product for shower interiors. There will of course always be timeless classic designs that never go out of fashion when it comes to bathroom and shower design, like frameless shower doors which give a real touch of class, but being able to combine these with groundbreaking, labour-saving technology is a recipe for success.
Indeed, these themes were further amplified David Kohler, President & CEO of Kohler Co. and Scott Culbreth, SVP & CFO of American Woodmark Corp., who joined Hasselbeck on the panel. They agreed that the “biggest trend is technology,” which can be found in:
  • Consumer research
  • Buying online
  • Electronics in every room
If you believe the hype in Orlando, the home of the future-fully customized by consumers and controlled with voice activation-is already here.