Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Unrealized movie technology

If you're like me, which you are, you grew up with expectations of seeing not-too-futuristic technology used in the not-too-distant movie future show up in your everyday life. Some kids found these gadgets so cool and so helplessly attractive that they actually made up lies about its arrival to the marketplace.

Here's an ode to technologies and products we were all waiting for but that never came. It's not going to be an ode, like in a rhyming pattern, that'd be gay, it's just an ode-ode.

1. You can't spell "childhood myths" without "Hoverboard." Debuted in the trough of "Back to the Future II: Back to the Future Again," the hoverboard was a futuristic version of a skateboard that hovered instead of, well, skated I guess. The producers of this movie obviously knew what the hell they were doing, because when the movie was released in 1989, skateboarding was huge, and so the Hoverboard concept was met with fanatical desire. But, since Tony Hawk had not yet turned 40, skateboarding had no icon and the whole idea faded a few years later. The only thing anyone remembers from that movie were the flying cars and that scene where Marty McFly tries to escape from Biff and his fashionable future gang by taking his hoverboard over a pond in the middle of Futuretown, USA. The horror of time travel immediately became palpable to an anxious audience when the hoverboard strangely fails and leaves Marty stranded in the middle of the pond, hovering in place just inches above. "Hoverboards don't work on water!" shouted Biff, while looking into the camera, seemingly explaining this directly to the audience. "How foolish to think you could just travel into the future and get along with things as usual," thought the audience. Biff, though, had a hoverboard that worked on water, and it not only performed that remarkable feat, it was also built to intimidate. I remember it had like sharp edges and knife-like points on it, things the Consumer Safety Board might have a problem with. Anyway, 2015, the year in which BTTF II took place, is fast approaching, and there's no signs of a hoverboard. Of course, the technical infeasibility of building a hoverboard didn't stop some asshole from starting an all-too-believable rumor that someone had built one and was selling them and that they'd be in stores within like a year or something. It was so pervasive that it lingers on to this day. In fact, the guys on Mythbusters actually tried to build a hoverboard. It didn't work very well. The real irony is that a hoverboard would probably look pretty good to Michael J. Fox right about now. Whoah, that's low. Apologies all around.

2. Need to get downtown in 2 minutes? Are you in the future? Great, then just hop on into this tube. Once you jump on in, the tube will take you pretty much anywhere your imagination can conjure within instants. That's how revolutionary the tube infrastructure is. Nevermind the fact that you'd probably need to use an incredible amount of air pressure, enough to burst people's eyes, to send humans flying around at supersonic speeds. Also ignore the fact that tubes would need to bend, and so you'd end up with clumps of dead people who were slammed against the sides of the tubes as it bent around a sharp corner. Aside from all of these seemingly unsurpassable technological hurdles, to this day, I still want a fucking tube system. I'll take the random carnage and eye-popping any day; I hate sitting in traffic, and I hate leaving early for things that will take more than 5 minutes to get to. If I ever become a billionaire, which is looking pretty likely right now as I sit in my cubicle, I'm going to build my own personal tube system between my house, a bar, a wings place, some hot chick's house, and the beach. If I need to go anywhere else I'll just either have it delivered to me or buy the place I need to go to and have it moved next door to me. I'm not completely sure what show to blame for my exceeding expectations, but I think it's the Jetsons. Those fuckers.

3. Let's say I wanted to join a mining expedition several thousand meters underwater. How would I get there? How about instead of breathing air, I breathe a superoxygenated liquid? You may vaguely remember that scene in The Abyss where they put a rat in some pink fluid and the rat breathes the oxygen-rich fluid after flailing about for a little while. As it turns out, the rumor at the time that the rat was actually breathing that fluid was correct. The rumor that it will be used in diving and space travel in the near future was not. It turns out that there's occasionally some bad side effects to breathing superoxygenated liquid, like dying from oedema or hemorrhaging, which isn't too much of a surprise since we're built to breath gaseous air, not liquidous liquid. This technology would make my dream of dropping some acid and swimming around beaches, terrorizing the local sealife with a trident while pretending to be Poseiden a reality. Not that I'd ever do that since I'm terrified of the ocean, of course. Liquid breathing is yet another case of "Yeah, whatever happened to that?"

4. Robots. I wanted to come right out and say it that time. Robots robots robots. I'm not sure when predictions of robots doing our everyday chores began (again probably the Jetson, though more likely H.G. Wells) but it's been the biggest bust next to the tube system. Instead of robots cleaning out toilets and tying our shoes (i, Robot) or eradicating all of mankind (Terminator) they're stupidly hobbling into walls and having monotone, digitized conversations with plants. Honda's ASIMO was heralded as a breakthrough because it could walk on two legs and recognize a couple commands. If these things went berserk, it wouldn't be much different than having a couple remote control cars with dying batteries harassing you; all you'd have to do is find a step or a stool or a grassy patch and continue eating your sandwich. Whenever it is that robots finally do become human-like, it better be a company called SkyNet that creates them, just to freak everyone out. In fact, I think someone else thought of this, because it looks like some Algerian is already on the case.
Above image: "Four coffees, huh? Uhh, okay, close enough, I guess."

5. Remember how cool that game of holo-chess was in Star Wars, and how badass it was in Total Recall when Governor Schwarzenegger threw out that holo-cube into the middle of the bad guys and they all tried to shoot him but he got the last laugh because it was just a hologram of him and he ended up shooting them all in the back instead? Yes, you do, and it WAS badass. But where's my holo-TV, my holo-phone, my holo-pets, my holo-friends, and my holo-porn? I swear to god that holograms were supposed to take over as the dominant form of looking at stuff like 20 years ago, but I sure as shit don't see any naked holo-men mincing around my apartment when my Moroccan boyfriend, Michael, is out of town (or at the grocery store, teehee!). Holograms are going to end up in a museum before they end up in my living room. The advent of ubiquitous hologram technology is just like virtual reality technology, it's always on the horizon. More like the fucking event horizon. Ouch! Got em with science that time.

Above image: exactly what not to expect within the next 20 years.

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