According to an article by Don Hunt, the Internet Home Alliance is launching a pilot program, based in Atlanta, to equip homes with clothes washers and dryers that have the ability to communicate with computers and other devices on a home network. This allows the washer and dryer to communicate status information through TV screens, computer monitors, and cell phones.
The idea is that when a load has finished a message can pop-up on your television letting you know its time to move the clothes to the dryer. Or, if you're surfing the web, the dryer can ask you if you'd like to add an extra "fluff" cycle to the current load.
The article says that the system doesn't use an particularly groundbreaking technology. Indeed, if you'd like to try some of this out for yourself, I've included some pointers below. You won't be able to get your dryer online, but you can have notifications about CallerID and other events of interest. No need to wait for the future, get a taste of it now with just a little elbow grease.
See my previous articles Macintosh Home Monitoring and Growling PhoneValet for the basics of notification systems. If you'd like to have CallerID info sent to your television, look into CID clients such as CIDTrackerX (for Macintosh), CallerID Sentry (for Windows), and YAC (for Windows and TiVo). If you prefer a standalone CID-on-TV solution, then consider the TV Messenger which overlays CID info onto any connected boob tube. With the exception of the TV Messenger, you can use these tools to display other types of messages, too. Have fun experimenting.