Technological Advances (Media vs. Real Life)


Science-fiction lore has made astounding predictions into the future.  In fact, what once may have been viewed as great imagination is now part of our civilized world.   Today’s amazing technology may be tomorrow’s next invaluable gadget, tool, or means of transportation.

In 1962, voice actors George O’Hanlon and Mel Blanc reacted to the new script written by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera titled The Jetsons.  It was laughter.   In this new animated series, the characters had touch screens to receive meals, flat screen televisions for teleconferencing abilities, a home computer to complete homework assignments, and a treadmill for the family dog, Astro.  Beyond the futuristic concepts, this cartoon shaped our view of the 21stcentury.   Watching the Jetsons today, we may not live in space or fly our cars to other galaxies, but we can relate to the housekeeper robot named Rosie, in the form of two names: Alexa and the Roomba.  And, just wait.  A flying car, which will take off in similar fashion to a helicopter and fly like a plane will also be able to drive on roads.  In another decade or two, a version of the TF-X may be parked in everyone’s driveway.

The Glass Bottom Boat, starring Doris Day and Rod Taylor and released in June 1966, was chock full of all sorts of futuristic technology.  Rod’s character was a leading space scientist whose inventions went beyond space endeavors and into to his own home, supposedly to add conveniences to everyday life.  Maybe so, maybe not.

For instance, the self-cleaning vacuum worked just fine – on the surface.  However, it seemed to have a mind of its own and was more than a little crazed when anything landed on the floor.  It managed to not only ingest a banana cream pie but also forcibly abscond with Doris’ shoe. The vacuum went back to its hideout under the cabinet with its bounty once cleanup was complete.  Does that sound like the Roomba vacuum of today? Pretty much, with the exception of the chirpy sound effects and perhaps the frenzied attitude.  Other automation tools (a mixer that dropped down when needed, then cleaned itself, or a stove that cooked in mere minutes) made the kitchen the bane of his housekeeper’s existence.

His home safe was designed to open via voice recognition.  Voice control is big news these days with in-home command systems; now we have the additional concern of how to keep homes safe using this new technology.

The boat in the film was outfitted with remote control steering and speed control.  Our generation now has cars that drive themselves and some that can parallel park better than most people.  Driverless cars show up fairly often in films.  You may remember in Total Recall and I, Robot, people didn’t drive cars, robots did.  Are we really ready to sit in the passenger seat?

In 1983, theatergoers witnessed Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker riding on what appeared to be a type of motorcycle hovering off the ground and zooming through the forests in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. In 2017, a prototype of the Aero-X hoverbike was designed, flying 10 feet off the ground and traveling up to 45 miles an hour.  Appearing as large as a drone, it can carry a rider or deliver equipment or aid to those in need.

Computerized technology continues to take concepts seen first in movies, to the next level.  One very intelligent system is known in Tony Stark’s laboratory as J.A.R.V.I.S, in 2008’s Iron Man, as Space X CEO Elon Musk is trying to find ways to “replicate a virtual workspace.”  Just imagine the ability to remove the screen, and interact with hand gestures!  This prototype is called “SpaceTop.”

Technology is a good thing.  Imagination and people with the ability to ask those ‘What if?’ questions, whether in film or TV, really do translate to reality in more cases than we might think.  Perhaps we should take the statement, “If you build it, they will come,” from Field of Dreams and transition it to ‘If you can dream it up, it can be a reality.’  However, it also leads to the question, is faster, easier always better?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?


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