The technology we have now is almost awesome. Almost.
Sometimes we see the latest smartwatch, smartphone, or smartcar, and feel like we’re living in a Star Trek-like, futuristic gadget utopia. But you know what? There are still so many improvements to come. Sure, we have things like Google Glass and chair pants, but these things are all still working out the kinks; they show the promise of where we will be eventually, but they’re still clunky, slow, and just not quite there yet. Here are five items that prove we’re slap-bang in the middle of technology's awkward teenage years.
MIT — inFORM
What It Is: The inFORM is a shape-shifting surface that can take form and be manipulated by someone hundreds of miles away. Imagine holding your hands under your iPad while the inFORM makes a shape dictated from a completely different location, rolling a ball, as seen in the above video, or – for a more practical application - physically flipping someone off, or longingly caressing your distant lover’s bosom.
The Growing Pains: Don’t assume this marks an end to your beloved image-based cyber-sexual tendencies just yet. “Programmable matter” is still in its primal form, which means that, currently, the inFORM is a humongous contraption nowhere near being commercially available (or viable). So you, your son, and probably your son’s son might as well get used to only looking at boobs on the phone in the bathroom, not digitally dialing up a physical pair of them.
Tesla – Autonomous Car
What It Is: The self-driving car is the preeminent gauge of how far into the future we are - it’s the car that drives you to work while you sleep, eat, or, in our ideal future, take a nice, long, uninterrupted dump. Tesla promises to launch an autonomous car within the next three years.
The Growing Pains: It doesn’t take much to realize how much social, political, and infrastructural upheaval will have to take place before cars are fully autonomous. Tesla’s car will be mostly (90%, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk) autonomous, in that the car will drive itself on long stretches of highway when you’d rather nap or do something less boring than drive. And even then, don’t expect beer-drinkin’, meat-eatin’ Johnny America to buy into driving with robots on the road, no matter how safe they prove to be. No, this one is going to sit in the legislature a long, long time before we can call it the future.
Double Robotics — Double
What It Is: The Double is a tablet mounted upon a drivable contraption (read: broomstick with wheels). It gives you the opportunity to maneuver the contraption around, while the tablet’s camera displays the world around you. Much like the inFORM, you’ll be able to be places and touch things without having to rip yourself away from the warming glow of your benevolent computer screen.
The Growing Pains: Yes, you can hook this puppy up to another iPad and roll your dumb face around the office or museum, but you’re still a face on a screen that will inevitably end up unable to maneuver around the janitor who’s waggling his wiener in front of the camera. If this is really the peak of technology - if offices will soon be filled with iPads rolling into each other and down the stairs while their users sit pants-less in their apartments - then all sci-fi authors should be sued for making us believe humans might ever amount to anything cool.
Coin — The Coin
Photo: Everett Collection | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014
What It Is: The latest futuristic buzz phrase, the “Internet of Things,” promises to be the first step towards having a smart-house – that is, a house that’s connected to your habits, your mood, and if possible, our dog’s nighttime pooping schedule. In the future, a smart-house means a house that’s teeming with robotic extensions that wash your clothes, carry you to breakfast, and talk to you in sexy French accents.
The Growing Pains: As it stands, the Internet of Things means Wi-Fi-connected appliances that give you the option to open the garage door and preheat the oven from your phone without having to move or talk to anyone else in the house. Right now, the Internet of Things is more, “Let me start the dishwasher without having to get up,” and less “Let my house cook breakfast as we lay in our anti-gravity sensory restoration tanks.” And if anything, it’s just one more way the NSA will know you look at porn with the lights on. Yep - it’s going to be a while before our houses talk to us in sexy French accents, so we might as well get used to talking to actual, y’know, people. Sigh.