TIME the backstory

Behind TIME’s Smart Home Cover: Meet Artist Lori Nix

For this week’s issue of TIME, editors asked artist Lori Nix — best known for her “post-apocalyptic" dioramas — to build and shoot a model of an ideal smart home.

It might be hard to believe at first glance, but Lori Nix’s photographs are not pictures of real, full-size spaces. They are, instead, intricately-designed models she has built and shot in her own Brooklyn studio.

Nix – an artist and photographer who has been working in New York since the early 1990s – describes her dioramas of crumbling theaters and sand-filled subway cars as “post-apocalyptic.” In her photographs, nature creeps into the built environment raising questions of what the world would be like without humans. Somewhat appropriately, too, Nix builds models specifically to be photographed and destroys them afterward.

THURS_coverBut for this week’s issue of TIME – which focuses on how smart homes are changing lives – editors asked her to imagine what a regular house might look if it worked with its owners, rather than what it would look like if it went to ruin without them.

And so Nix – working with fellow artist and girlfriend Kathleen Gerber – created and photographed a striking model of a smart home, replete with replicas of a climbing wall, a wifi-enabled lighting system, air conditioning that anticipates user needs, and many other innovations.

The best thing about the project?

“I get to play ‘what if?’” as Nix says in our video interview. “What if I was able to build my own house? This would be close to what my dream house would be.”


Lori Nix is an artist and photographer based in Brooklyn who has been exhibited internationally. Her book, The City, is out now.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Smarthome

Google’s Nest Is Coming After the Rest of Your Home

Nest Labs, maker of the “learning” thermostat, is opening its platform to outside developers in a bid to expand the range of Internet-connected home devices it can interact with. Through Nest, which search giant Google acquired for $3.2 billion in January, users will be able to communicate with Mercedes-Benz vehicles, Whirlpool appliances, Jawbone fitness trackers and other gadgets.

Google is among the partners announced as part of the program. Google Now, the company’s personal digital assistant, will be able to set the temperature on a Nest thermostat automatically when it detects that a user is coming home, for example, or through voice commands. Nest said it will share limited user information with Google and other partners. Nest co-founder Matt Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that users have to opt in for each new device.

The move allows partners to link their software and applications to Nest’s thermostat, which will act as a hub for devices in the home. For example, Jawbone’s UP24 band knows when its users are about to wake up in the morning. Now, a Nest thermostat can automatically raise or lower the temperature just before a user gets out of bed in the morning. Likewise, a connected Mercedes-Benz can tell Nest when a user will be home from work, timing the house’s temperature correctly.

Nest is independently operated from Google. But the device maker is leading Google’s charge into the connected home market. Earlier this month, Nest announced it was acquiring Dropcam, a maker of connected cameras, for $555 million. The company’s founders have also said they are looking for unloved or poorly designed devices to reinvent.

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