Smart House: Is Alexa the New Pat?

If you were a kid in the 90s then you’re probably familiar with 1999’s Smart House, perhaps the most recognizable Disney channel original movie. It’s about a family that moves into a smart house whose voice assistant Pat can do everything from cooking meals to playing movies, from helping with homework to setting showers to the perfect temperature— sound familiar? In some ways, this smart home vision has become a reality, with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant becoming commonplace along with a myriad of connected devices like smart showers, A.I-powered homework apps and robots that can tell if you’re feeling sad.

Hosts Gabe and Aliza will ponder all of the movie’s technology, comparing it to what we have today, and finding out for certain if we are, in 2019, in the future. Of course, there’s still a lot of technology in the movie that doesn’t exist yet, like robots cooking complete meals from scratch, much to the hosts’ dismay. Plus, voice assistants haven’t yet tried to bridge the gap between human and machine, which ultimately led to Pat’s downfall. After recapping the movie and discussing the latest in smart home technology, Gabe and Aliza focus on three questions— can this exist today, should this exist today and of course, are we in the future?


  • Gabe and Aliza introduce the movie Smart House and it’s characters (0:56)
  • Gabe and Aliza recap the plot of Smart House (1:36)
  • In this section called IRL, or In Real Life, Gabe and Aliza talk about the technology in the movie and how it applies today (4:55)
  • Discussion of smart showers including the Moen Digital Shower Controller, the Kohler K-527-O Digital Shower Interface, and the Kohler K-9245-CP Moxie Showerhead and Wireless Speaker (5:39)
  • Discussion of homework help, including the Socratic app, the Photomath Camera Calculator, and the Got It Study App (10:44)
  • Discussion of Mom advice, including Alexa’s conversation abilities, how she can read your feelings, and Alexa’s uses in hospitals (14:00)
  • How is Amazon trying to make Alexa more conversational? Discussion of the Amazon Price Socialbot Grand Challenge 3, a contest to make Alexa carry on a 20 minute conversation, understand who the user is in terms of ages, genders, nationalities, and more, and be able to interpret people’s emotions and health. (14:59)
  • Cedars-Sinai hospital’s pilot program that put Alexa into 100 patient rooms (19:45)
  • Other technology in the movie that exists today like smart light bulbs, smart thermometers, and digital news (20:52)
  • Technology that would’ve thrown a wrench in the movie’s plot, including a contest that doesn’t filter our repeated entries and being able to turn your voice assistant off (21:18)
  • Project Alias, a device that you can put on top of a smart home hub to prevent it from listening to your conversations (22:38)
  • Discussion of smart home security that would’ve helped the family escape Pat, like the Nest Cam Outdoor camera, smart sensors and the SimpliSafe Video Doorbell Pro. Plus, they ask the titular question— are we in the future? (23:32)
  • Dear Hollywood: Gabe and Aliza discuss the Ayi Smart Mirror, which really needs to be included in a movie about a dystopian future (26:45)
  • Gabe and Aliza say their goodbyes (30:42)

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