College students dream up the kitchen of the future

At this point, everyone from tiny startups to multinational corporations have taken a crack at dreaming up the home of the future. Between Electrolux's flying mini-robots

and GE's automated laundry machines, the practice is an easy (and marketable) way to blow the internet's collective mind.

Well, now we can add public universities to the list of domestic futurists.

A group of students and professors from Virginia Tech's Center for Design Research has revealed a concept kitchen called the FutureHAUS—and it's already making futurists blush. The idea draws a number of disparate themes into a single package, and is markedly more ambitious than any other smart home concept we've seen.

FutureHAUS is a complete, modular housing system that allows buyers to combine readymade "cartridges" (for kitchen, bath, living, and more) into stackable, high-density condominiums.

It's a bold idea, but is it ready for the real world? We visited the group's prototype display at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) 2015 to find out.

The most notable aspect of the current FutureHAUS kitchen concept is its use of sensors. These sensors are present in the refrigerator, where they keep track of things like how full your milk carton is. So when you're at the store, you can check in with the fridge to find out whether you need to buy more 2 percent.

These monitors are also in the dishwasher, where they measure the size of the load and instruct the washer to dispense just the right amount of detergent. It's a rather clever use of simple technology for a complicated task—one that could eventually save you time and money.

For now, the FutureHAUS is more of a dream than achievable reality. (Photo: Reviewed.com)

The FutureHAUS kitchen prototype is built around four large LCD displays. Running Windows 8, the giant tablet embedded in the center—the "social table," as it's called—can be used pretty much exactly like a regular PC. You can theoretically fling webpages and YouTube videos to the three "backsplash" displays for the sink, cooking surface, and countertop.

Each appliance has its own touchscreen app, from the induction cooktop to the dishwasher. The cooktop app was running in the prototype kitchen when we visited, though not actually working.

The designers say the FutureHAUS will adapt to owners' needs, automatically adjusting "temperature, security, lighting, and more, based on voice recognition, touch, gestures, and motion." Little of that projected functionality was on display at KBIS, though.

The kitchen design comes from boutique custom cabinetry firm Plain & Fancy, and it absolutely screams quality—with a modern, clean aesthetic that uses space wisely.

The drawer-style cupboard has built-in lighting and shelves that can be accessed from either side—a setup that ensures your spices and baking goods won't get lost in the dim recesses of your cabinets.

Each appliance in the FutureHAUS kitchen has its own control app. (Photo: Reviewed.com)

Virginia Tech's designers even put some serious thought into the sink and faucet. The former has a beveled edge that can play host to a variety of accessories (cutting boards, drying racks), while the latter is gesture-controlled—you simply wave your hand to turn the stream on or off, and right or left to raise or lower the temperature.

There's a lot going on in the FutureHAUS kitchen, but it's hard to tell in these initial stages if this is a setup we'd actually want to live with.

Most of the sensor tech on display is merely proof-of-concept. In fact, virtually all of the FutureHAUS's smart functionality is conceptual at this point. Inventory management sounds great, but information is scarce on how it would actually work.

The stackable, modular "cartridge" design is also far over the horizon for now. And while we like the ergonomics and design sense on display, most of that is imported from other companies and already available today for buyers with the right budget.

So, for now, the FutureHAUS is a beautiful idea, if slightly unrealistic. We look forward to hopefully seeing a more fully realized version next year.