Many homes are already halfway there, with computer chips helping microwave popcorn, record TV shows, and turn on coffee makers and thermostats.

"If you have a programmable thermostat, you have the beginnings of a smart home," said Diane Cook, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Washington State University, who led the study.

"What we're trying to do is get the home to take over the job of programming it. We want your home as a whole to think about what you need and use the components in it to do the right thing," added Cook, the journal Science reported.

Cook has been applying artificial intelligence (AI) in test homes since 2006. It already shows that the technology can help monitor aging-in-place elderly residents and alert caregivers if they are not completing ordinary activities like rising, eating, bathing, and taking medications, according to a university statement.

Similarly, homes can be designed to automatically regulate energy use, the source of nearly half a consumer's energy diet. Smart home technologies can run washers at off-peak times, turn off unneeded appliances and put out lights in empty rooms without residents having to make conscious choices.

While smartphone lets people take their social media with them, the home could in effect act like a car's Bluetooth, facilitating hands-free conversation from any room. For that matter, said Cook, cameras would let residents "Skype from anywhere."