SAN FRANCISCO–In a glimpse of the future, real estate agents will whisk off to home showings in their flying cars, unlock the front door by voice activation and give home buyers visors equipped with drop-down computer screens.

Or maybe they’ll just skip the showing altogether and instead send ASIMO, the office robot.

These innovations were among the 100 hands-on technology exhibits featured this past weekend during Wired magazine’s NextFest. The event featured innovations in the future of design, communication, security, transportation, health and exploration. Most of the exhibits were prototypes of products to come, and most are not yet available for purchase by consumers.

One device potentially useful for real estate is HP Labs’ Websign technology. The service enables users to get location-based information by simply pointing the device in the direction they are headed. A magnetic compass and Global Positioning System identify the user’s position while a wireless Web connection pulls up relevant Web sites to help the person find location-based information.

Imagine a couple out for a Sunday stroll notice the home on the corner is for sale. One pulls out a handheld computer device, points it at the house and is linked to a Web site that displays the home’s asking price, square footage, number of bedrooms and other information.

The catch is that for such technology to work, homeowners or listing agents would have to create a separate Web page with each home’s information.

Philadelphia-based SmarterAgent launched a similar service last year. The company developed and patented a location-aware information service that transmits home data to consumers via cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with the satellite-based GPS.

Agents who want to reach non-English speaking prospects might find themselves carrying HP Labs’ Translating Camera, which takes digital photos of signs and translates them into foreign languages. The camera’s software processes the images of the words on the sign and displays their meaning in whatever language is chosen within seconds.

Another option would be an electronic interpreter program developed by SpeechGear. One program offers real-time translation in which users simply speak into the device and it repeats back what was said in a different language. A complete transcript of the conversation is generated simultaneously

“I could see a number of ways real estate agents could use this,” SpeechGear CEO Robert Palmquist said.

SpeechGear also exhibited a translation program for Pocket PCs, which offers users thousands of words and phrases. Users can load multiple language dictionaries and customize the vocabulary to fit specific communication needs. For example, a real estate agent could customize phrases used at listing presentations or home showings for specific languages.

Motorola offered some nifty devices that help people locate and prevent the loss of car keys, a cellphone, a wallet and the like. The Location Beacon, or “LoBe,” can plug into a wall outlet or operate on batteries. The device works in tandem with a cellphone to be able to tell where the person is located. A separate digital paper clip can connect to car keys, for example, to be able to tell the user where they are located or the time of the last communication with the keys.

A third device, called Janus, could be placed in a room to trigger lights or a stereo to turn on upon entry into the home. Janus can trigger any device that uses infrared such as a remote control for the television or stereo. The users cellphone triggers the LoBe, which then triggers the Janus.

Motorola’s fourth device was the DigiNote, an electronic version of a Post-It note. These could be bought in packs of four or five empty “notes” in which people record short notes to themselves or other people. The notes can be erased and re-recorded.

A Motorola cellphone, which doubles as a camera, also can be used for video conferencing or playing games.

Motorola also had on display the “Doorcam,” a device that places a camera outside the front door of a house and communicates with other devices to allow remote home access via biometric and photo verification.


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