In Prague, a House Without a Key

Set on a sloped plot above Prague in the city’s Troja district, Villa Sophia has no keys, no light switches and a piano that can play by itself.

The house can close the windows when it rains and read aloud material it has selected from the internet, based on the owners’ interests. Shaped like a helix and offering panoramic views, the 5,100-square-foot house is controlled through artificial intelligence.

“The house is like a brain,” said Michaela Pankova, an organizer for the architectural festival Open House Prague, who shares the home with her husband, Karel Panek, and their daughters, Sofia and Veronika. “It makes decisions for you based on previous experience.”

Featuring a predominantly white interior that along with a spatial configuration that ascends in a spiral feels appropriately futuristic, the home, designed by the Prague-based firm Coll Coll, is intended to go beyond automated to autonomous. “As we say, if we have to control it ourselves, it’s not smart enough,” said Mr. Panek, a computer scientist.

Mr. Panek and Mrs. Pankova commissioned the home on returning to the Czech Republic after more than a year living in Vancouver, British Columbia. The home is both their living space and their office, their “center of the universe,” said the architect Kristof Hanzlik, a partner at Coll Coll.

The couple wanted no comprises in quality and efficiency. When they couldn’t find a technology that met their standards, Mr. Panek, the brain behind his home’s brain, designed his own system.

Sysloop, both the name of the autonomous building’s management system and the company (owned by Mr. Panek and two partners) that created it, integrates a confusing jumble of technologies into one autonomous system.

While family members go about their daily lives, the system collects data and evaluates that data in real time, then comes up with solutions and implements them.

“For us, everything is a source of data. The more information you have, the more accurate the solution,” said Mr. Hanzlik, who is also a partner in Sysloop. “It brings more freedom to the design process,” he said.

Data collection is done through sensors — in floors, in drawers, under the kitchen table.

“The house has an idea of where everyone is,” Mr. Panek said.

Artificial intelligence, replacing what requires human intervention in existing systems, takes over from there.

“The house is capable of answering questions and interpreting spoken instructions,” Mr. Panek said. “It can store instructions and statements in order to apply or verify them later autonomously. To some extent it can infer action from statements, such as ‘I am cold’ —therefore increase temperature.”

Including a data center that takes up an entire room, the home cost 80 million Czech crowns, roughly $3.6 million. Sysloop, on the market in a generic version, accounted for 20 percent of that cost — “including both sysloop software technology and all related hardware,” Mr. Panek said in an email.

Along with temperature adjustments, the house can adjust its own lighting (the reason for no switches), including toning

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