Software giant Microsoft has been using a copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to inspire its R&D and hit upon the idea of having intelligent lifts.
The software in a Microsoft lift can now determine if the person walking by is about to board, then open its doors to let them in.
Vole has installed its Xbox motion-detecting camera, the Kinect, in the ceiling above the elevator, then had it monitor people for months, determining what behaviour predicted whether they'd board the elevator or not.
If it is not sure whether someone is going to get on, it will move its doors until the person motions to tell it to wait or not.
The project is the brainchild of Eric Horvitz, the co-director of Microsoft's research lab which houses some of the company's 1,100 scientists and engineers. Horvitz's team has begun a second phase of the project experimenting with human-like interactions between elevators and the people riding them.
But already some of the language which is building around the project does sound suspiciously like that of the Sirius Cybernetics company
"We build systems that adore people and that by design come to enjoy and work and support people and nurture them," Horvitz told the Washington Post. It is only one small step to "share and enjoy" and the lift will be refusing to leave the basement because it can predict the future. Then someone will re-invent the staircase and make a fortune.