A Thermostat, a Meditation On Humanity

I'm getting emotional about HVAC over here.
July 19, 2017, 10:11pm

Exactly 134 years ago this summer, a Wisconsinite named Warren Johnson patented the first thermostat (or "electric tele-thermoscope," as he called it then)—giving humanity mastery over temperature in enclosed spaces.

Today, the HVAC company that still bears his name, Johnson Controls, wants to change everything again with…another thermostat. But wow, look at this thing. Called GLAS (yes, just one 'S,' not to be confused with a Google product), it is, as the name suggests, mostly a tiny sliver of clear glass that sits on your wall and displays information and that you can touch or talk to like something out of Star Trek.


It was made in partnership with Microsoft and uses Windows 10's Internet-of-Things software and Microsoft's Halo-inspired artificial intelligence assistant Cortana (that's where the talking comes into play). There's no pricing or availability yet (I'm checking with my Johnson and Microsoft contacts now). Who knows if it's even reliable or any good.

But I do know one thing: Microsoft wants me to believe this thing will blow my mind and steal my heart. Just watch the first promo video above, which is so emotional and inspirational, it could be easily confused as a trailer for the sequel to Her. The lines spoken by the narrator are basically a poem rivaling those written by America's laureates:

"The spaces we inhabit impact our lives
Every moment of every day
As humans, what surrounds us
defines us
Our productivity
Our creativity
Our happiness
So shouldn't our spaces be regulated with something just as versatile as we are?"

I mean, wow. I wasn't looking for a new thermostat and I almost certainly can't afford one right now. But this ad is inspiring me to get my life together so that I can be a better person, a good enough person to own this beautiful little windowpane from the future and have it shine information down upon me and tell me in its soothing voice that everything will be okay and I don't have to worry about anything anymore. A person who is as versatile as his elegant, charming, smart thermostat.

Anyway, I guess it's kind of like the Nest.

Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.