By Will Read
Remember those science fiction movies which demonstrated incredible, life-changing gadgets? Well, several of these gadgets are either here or fast approaching technical viability. We caught up with Warren Wolf Kay, futurist and founder of MDRN, a New York-based enterprise showcasing smart everything for your home.
You can’t help thinking how creators of those old-time favorites could come up with the cell phone. Or, those plots of kids using voice-activated services to fish the Internet and answer homework questions. Today, there are more innovations approaching technical maturity which means it is only a matter of time before the law and rules for their use are finalized before they appear in our lives. We drew on Warren’s expertise to identify some of the following trends leaving the realm of science fiction for science fact.
FLYING CARS & TAXIS
Remember movies such as the Fifth Element from the 1990s with a future New York filled with flying vehicles? The technology is here. The 2019 CES show previewed the Bell Nexus electric air taxi which can transport four passengers plus a pilot; Uber is already shortlisting the company as one to work with. So flying to work could become a reality sooner rather than later. Currently, and only in Mexico City and Sao Paolo, Voom has introduced an on-demand helicopter taxi service. Info: bellflight.com/company/innovation/air-taxi; airbus.com/innovation; voom.flights.
ENTER THE MATRIX
It was a stunning visualization of an idea that virtual reality and reality could blend together. And while the conspiracy idea from the movie The Matrix maintains we have been conquered by aliens, it has not appeared to have happened. However, the idea of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are here to stay.
Augmented Reality is where you can use the camera on your cell phone as a window to superimpose images on reality through the screen. For example, the newer cell phones have apps that enable you to measure distance in reality but identifying the line using the screen that you wish to measure with some accuracy. Companies such as Ikea have created an app that enables you to position an image of the desired piece of furniture in a mock room so you can evaluate how it will look and mesh with your environment.
Virtual Reality is a step further whereby the entire world you view through a pair of goggles or glasses is artificially constructed. Some travel companies have used VR to transport the viewer into an immersive experience. For example, to attend a music concert or travel to a destination without leaving your home. Oculus’ Go Virtual Reality Headset is not just about games or watching immersive television but also has experiences such as sports or music where the goggles represent the equivalent of wide-screen television. Info: oculus.com.
Science fiction has created robots to make our lives easier, to help us or just for companionship. Robots are here forever. Samsung has developed the Bot Air—an air purifying robot that has sensors and will move from room to room in a home as required. The Ovis suitcase from ForwardX tracks you and follows you—no more dragging luggage through an airport concourse. Look for Segway’s Loomo delivery robot to bring things to you. Info: segwayrobotics.com; forwardx.com; samsung.com.
The computer, Hal from movie 2001: A Space Odyssey seemed far-fetched. And only ten years ago in the movie Iron Man, the hero has a computer that controls his home with voice commands. Amazing that this technology has entered the 21st century. And with as little as one hundred dollars and an Internet connection you can welcome Alexa into your home. Just about every new appliance and gadget is coming with voice control via integration with Alexa (Amazon), Google Home (Google) or Siri (Apple). In addition, other manufacturers are marketing appliances using voice-activated technology including iRobot with the Roomba i7 vacuum cleaner. Info: alexa.amazon.com; assistant.google.com; apple.com/siri.
LIVING BIG IN A SMALL SPACES
Given that populations have become more urban-based and that with high real estate prices people are moving into ever smaller homes, the future of living has to adapt to enable people to maximize their space and have everything they need in a compact package. The Intelligent Living range of furniture is both customizable and can configure itself at the touch of a button (and soon by voice) to pack itself away or transform from a sofa into a bed for example. Info: inteligentliving.com.