Popular culture has made remarkably accurate predictions of future technology, and we’re not just talking about predictions from Star Wars, Star Trek, and cartoons.
Some of the technology we use today was predicted long before ordinary people were wishing for it.
At the same time, we’re still impatiently tapping our feet waiting for other technology to enter our lives. (teleportation, anyone?) Here are 10 pop culture tech predictions that came true, followed by 5 that didn’t (yet).
1. Google Glass
Google admits that the idea of the ubiquitous computing, with gadgets woven into all aspects of everyday life was inspired by television series Star Trek. Google VP and senior research engineer Amit Singhal grew up wanting to build the communicator characters on Star Trek< used. In 2012, he rhetorically asked The Evening Standard, “‘How much more productive would humanity be if we can achieve this?”
In the sixth season of The Simpsons, the episode titled “Lisa’s Wedding” features Lisa’s intended making a call with his watch. OK, maybe we’re not making calls with watches (yet), but wearable technology in the form of smartwatches has taken off in recent years, with the FitBit, Pebble, and others.
3. 3-D Printed Food
Ten years later, in the episode titled “Future Drama,”The Simpsons”got it right again, with Marge taking a Polaroid of Bart and Lisa on prom night and watching it turn into a cake with the picture printed on it. Here we are, less than a decade later, and 3D printed food is actually a thing now.
4. Video Chat
Who didn’t predict video phone calls? They were in Demolition Man, and were predicted by Isaac Asimov, writing in The New York Times in 1964, not to mention their use in countless cartoons. Perhaps the earliest mention of video chat was in a serial in Modern Electronics magazine in 1911 by Hugo Gernsback titled “Ralph 124c 41+.”
5. Self-Driving Cars
Self-Driving cars were also predicted in Demoltion Man, but in 1964, Isaac Asimov once again got it right, writing, “[V]ehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”
6. Satellite Communications
In 1945, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke penned a manuscript titled The Space-Station: Its Radio Applications. In it he predicted that geosynchronous satellites would be used in telecommunications and television transmission. Keep in mind that this was before Sputnik, and before broadcast television was in homes.
Today you can ruin your hearing with a device the size of dime thanks to technology.
Another giant of science fiction literature, Ray Bradbury, wrote in the classic novel Fahrenheit 451 about thimble-sized radios that were inserted directly into the ear. This was remarkably forward-looking, considering that headphones available at that time (the early 1950s) were huge and bulky. It took until around the turn of the 21st century, but tiny headphones became the default technology for most people.
8. Smart Lighting
Once again, writing in 1964, Isaac Asimov predicted the type of LED mood lighting that is affordable enough for most people in 2014: “By 2014, electroluminescent panels will be in common use. Ceilings and walls will glow softly, and in a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button.”
10. Tablet Computers
The cryo-prison wardens in Demolition Man had devices that looked a lot like the iPad. And they could be used for video calling.
On the other hand, here are 5 technologies we’re bummed out about not having yet.
1. Flying Cars
Flying cars were predicted as far back as the 1920s, and we have the technology. So where are they, already?
Supposedly, there are companies trying to make them commercially available, but so far, unless you’re a top spy or a character on Arrested Development, no jetpack for you.
3. Laser Swords
In 2013, Harvard and MIT scientists figured out how to bind photons together to make molecules that behave just like light sabers. But don’t expect one in your Christmas stocking until at least 2015.
4. Hologram Projectors
We’ve been waiting for hologram projectors since Star Wars, and holographic displays are inching their way into production. There are even hints that holographic projection could become a smartphone feature.
Ever since Marty McFly hovered through Back to the Future II and III, rumors have swirled around hoverboard technology. But this is one situation where the technology just isn’t there yet. Bummer.