The Jetsons were right - key future innovations predicted by tech cartoons
Take a time leap – you are a kid running home, throwing your shoes at the door, and rushing to the tv. Your favorite tech cartoon show is on – The Jetsons. It is the 90’s, but you are watching future innovations unfolding in the 2060s: flying cars, a robot maid, people being teleported, and life-changing home automation systems. Things you only dreamed of living are keeping you drawn to the screen for hours. Back then, it might have seemed just a mesmerizing materialization of imagination. Today software development has made sure your childhood projections of the future become a reality we live as adults. Do not worry if you were not a Jetsons fan. Other famous tech cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Futurama also predicted future innovations that humankind is using today.
The Jetsons – a tech cartoon trending since 1962
The Hanna-Barbera production was aired first time in 1962 and came as a counterpart to The Flintstones. While The Flintstones took place in the Stone Age, The Jetsons was the first tech cartoon show broadcasted in color on ABC. It was a projection of future innovations: suspended buildings, robot assistants, flying vehicles, video chatting, and more.
Facetime, Skype video calls, Video Messenger – familiar? Of course! Since our work moved mostly online, they are an integrated part of our lives. But all these were already a daily habit for the Jetsons, back in the ’60s. The videophone gave the possibility of calling and visualizing the person on a flat-screen.
Dreaming of a home assistant that does the cleaning for you? We have to tell you that Jane Jetson has been enjoying the help of a robot vacuum for decades now. Nowadays, you can buy one from an electronics store or, even better, wait for Boston Dynamics to create the ultimate robot assistant. They might have got some inspiration from Rosy, the robot maid in the show.
George Jetson also was a proud carrier of a smartwatch, like the Apple Watches we are eager to own today. Though, to be fair, George’s smartwatch gives the possibility to video chat. Apple, you better step up your game here!
Inspector Gadget and his cool Gadgetmobile
About 20 years later, Inspector Gadget was getting even closer to future innovations and tech discoveries. Besides the fact that he is a cyborg police inspector fighting crime, he uses many gadgets in his investigations. His niece, Penny, who usually helps him to get to the bottom of things, relies on a device that seems to be very similar to a laptop computer. It had predictive text powers, that one we use to Google, and the ability to connect to a wireless network to search for information. Even then, Wi-Fi was vital, right? Lucky for us, in the mid to late 90’s the concept of wireless connection came alive.
And that is not all, her device offered a few clicks away digital maps for guidance inside buildings and road maps. The first laptop, Penny’s gadget descendant, was to appear about 4 years later on the market. If our parents only had Google Maps or Waze earlier when taking long trips, that too many times ended with wrong turns…
Nevertheless, all times fans’ favorite was undoubtedly the Gadgetmobile. The rightful ancestor of contemporary autonomous vehicles. A car with multiple gadgets and functionalities that drove successfully on autopilot and parked herself. Fast forward, today, the electric cars that run by themselves are a reality, and many premium cars offer the comfortable feature of self-parking.
What does Inspector Gadget and The Jetson’s seem to have in common, besides being among the first tech cartoons? The voice-activated devices by IoT connections. Particularly, there is an episode where a computer can answer questions similar to modern-day Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Alexa. Also, Penny’s smartwatch, like George’s, has video calling capabilities, radiation sensors, tracking apps, flashlight, and laser. Though we can make calls with our smartwatches in 2021, video calling is still in progress and most probably close to becoming the new must-have feature.
The controversial Simpsons
This animated sitcom was created as a satire for American life; it surely captivated both children and adults in its audience since its debut in 1989. Often though, conspiracy theories gave birth to a love-hate affair with the audience. Even so, among their predictions regarding politics and social changes, they also strengthened some future innovations forecasts that their afore-mentioned predecessors unfolded. The smartwatch seems to be a common element. This time with an integrated voice, predicting the later existence of Siri. In the same episode about Lisa’s wedding, they feature an electric car and a video chatting system. A preview of the 3D printer appears in the Future-Drama episode when a simple picture becomes a real eatable cake. Now that is something we definitely want to own!
Futurama – about future innovations and beyond
While working at The Simpsons in the mid-’90s, Matt Groening took an even bigger leap into the future when creating Futurama. The multi-awarded tech cartoon show develops around the adventures of Phillip Fry. Phillip is a cryogenically preserved human, revived in the 31st century. He is accompanied by Leela, a one-eye feminine character, and Bender, a talking robot. The action takes place in New York. Along with global warming, other controversial subjects like bureaucracy and substance abuse are pushed to extremes in the context. As expected, future innovations, in this Futurama world, are part of everyday life already. Robots with self-awareness are typical in Futurama, though fueled by alcohol. Shocker? Or maybe just a good satire.
The futuristic tech cartoon surprisingly envisions many future innovations that eventually became a part of our lives as we speak. Quite early in its beginnings, Futurama anticipated the creation of virtual reality. The concept appears in the episode titled The Series Has Landed – when the Planet Express gang visited an amusement park; Amy uses a VR set for, ironically, a simple activity, like skeeball. Later, Oculus Rift, a gaming VR casket, turned the idea into reality and revolutionized the gaming world.
Drone video cameras were also foreseen by the screenwriters of Futurama. The flying robots appear in press conferences replacing the old, grounded version. Furthermore, drones are becoming one-a-dozen objects to own and use.
Is Elon Musk a Futurama fan, or is it just a coincidence? His envisioned hyperloop system meant to propel humans on long distances through a pressure tube, at a very high speed, changing traveling forever, is similar to one of the symbolistic visuals in the tech cartoon. The wheel is outdated and replaced by hover cars and pneumatic transportation tubes. There are miles of transparent tubes that form the public transit system that transport people around the city.
Though considered a form of entertainment, it is proven that cartoons broaden our understanding as children and explain the world in funny ways.
Otherwise, these concepts that are harder to explain to young people. What if, at a subconscious level, these futuristic scenarios educated our minds to thrive for progress and embrace technology?
We all loved these stories, but Bender said it best: „My story is a lot like yours, only more interesting, ‘cause it involves robots.”