Inside the Burke-Contes' smart house

Home technology that once seemed like pure science fiction—or at least something from The Jetsons—is increasingly becoming a reality. Yet few families can top the Burke-Contes' cutting-edge "smart house" near Seattle.

Almost everything in the house is computerized. When the children come home from school, they open the front door by waving their wristwatches over a scanner hidden in the wall.

Even the grocery list gets an upgrade! Homeowner Brian says a scanner system keeps an updated list of what's in stock in the pantry and can even reorder more food when something runs out. "It can recommend recipes to fit what you have in the cupboard," he says.
Cleopatra organizes the Burke-Contes' house.

The Burke-Contes' house is organized by their talking home computer, which they named Cleopatra. "It's sort of like a home personality," Brian says. "Someone there to assist you and your family and manage the house when you're away."

When the first person in the family goes to bed, Cleopatra begins her nightly powering down. First, she wishes them a good night and turns down all music and announcements. When the second person goes to bed, Cleopatra goes into full sleep mode—the lights and fireplace go off, the alarm on the doors and windows are armed and the motion sensor is activated.
Patti and Brian live in a smart house.

Since he's been working in technology for 20 years, Brian says he doesn't think it's weird to have such a high-tech house. "I've always wanted to make technology more accessible to people. And what better place to do that than in the home?" he says.

Patti says at first she was mildly apprehensive about turning her home over to a computer. "I didn't really have a vision for it. I thought it was going to be like the airport with these announcements," she says. "And as it's turned out, there's all kinds of very practical things you can do—and I'm all about practical with three little kids."

After getting over the concept of Cleopatra, Patti says she just had one lingering issue. "I looked at her the first time and said, 'She looks a whole lot like Angelina Jolie,'" Patti jokes. "'Couldn't we go with the Brad Pitt model?'"

Brian says there is more to their computer-run house than computerized grocery lists and automatically dimming lights. "I think the favorite feature has become the word of the day that we do at dinner. When we sit down to dinner … [Cleopatra teaches us] a new word every day," he says. "It's just kind of become a family tradition."
Nate and Oprah check out the Control4 system.

If you're not ready to let Cleopatra take over your house, there is plenty of other technology you can use to make your home more convenient.

The Control4 system functions as a handheld screen or remote control, allowing a user to direct everything in the house with just the touch of a finger. It controls the lights, temperature, music, television and security.

Control4 can even be used to monitor live video feeds from cameras installed in other rooms in the house. "You can watch the baby, " Nate says.
Nate demonstrates the Kicksweep.

Instead of bending over to sweep debris into a dustpan, the Beam Kicksweep is a vacuum system installed in the base of the wall. It sends all the dirt inside a cabinet or to a central location in the basement.
Nate demonstrates the SmartScan dead bolt.

This is no ordinary dead bolt lock. Instead of relying on keys, the Kwikset SmartScan uses fingerprints to protect your home. Stick your finger under the lock to open it and tap it three times to lock it.

"You can program up to 50 different fingerprints in here and take them out when you want," Nate says. "You can control the security."
Nate and a retractable cooktop

If you have no trouble with heat in the kitchen—but can't stand how small your workspace is—the Fisher & Paykel retractable cooktop could be the answer to your problem.

"When you're done, you just hit this again. It will cool down for a second," Nate says. "Then, it all goes back flat so you can use this as counter space. It's great for small spaces."
Nate and Oprah see the ultimate shower.

Nate says the Kohler DTV II Custom Showering Experience is more a spa-like experience than a shower. "This is actually like an iPod shower," he says.

Push a button and instantly recall your preferences for shower temperature, pressure and lighting. You can even have music piped in to sing along with.
Watch TV in the bathroom mirror.

People who live in small homes are always looking for ways to increase their space. Even if you've got plenty, a great way to save room is with this bathroom mirror by SEURA, Inc. that transforms into a television.

"The Jetsons are here," Oprah jokes. "We are the Jetsons!"

Where to find the products featured on the show.