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5 Surprising Ways Pop Culture Predicted New Technology

Pop culture  can both reflect trends in current society as well as influence new technologies through the popularization of futuristic ideas and concepts. Here are five technological advancements first depicted in movies, books, or TV:

1. The Jetsons (1961): Robot Vacuums 

In the Jetsons, a computer console enabled radio-controlled washing, ironing, and vacuuming of one’s home. Rosie, the housecleaning robot, would sweep and vacuum the house. Today, iRobot has several robotic vacuums on the market such as the iRobot Roomba 960.

2. Mark Twain (1848): The Internet

In Mark Twain’s short story “From the ‘London Times’ in 1904,” Twain predicted the invention of the internet. His fictional invention, the Telectroscope, was connected with the telephonic systems of the whole world; “the daily doings of the globe [were] made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable to, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.”

3. Batmobile (1939): Autonomous vehicles

First appearing in a 1939 comic, the Batmobile – Batman’s self-driving car – was driven by Adam West in his portrayal of the superhero in 1966. Another example of a self-driving car was David Hasselhoff’s car, KITT, in the 1982 TV series “Night Rider.” Arnold Schwarzenegger also drove an autonomous vehicle with a robotic driver in the 1990 movie Total Recall. Self-driving cars are now in testing by many companies including Tesla and Google.

4. Minority Report (2002): Touch and Gesture-Based Interfaces

In the 2002 sci-fi movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise uses many different futuristic technologies. One is a “gesture interface” to manipulate items on a wall-sized screen in order to sort out information on potential criminals to catch them before they commit a crime. Today, smartphones and other gesture-based interfaces feature a touchscreen.

5. The Six Million Dollar Man (1973): Bionic Limbs

In The Six Million Dollar Man, Colonel Steve Austin becomes the first bionic man after a near fatal military plane crash. He obtains a new arm a pair of legs with super strength, as well a bionic eye with super vision.

While in many cases the technology was not developed decades after the movie, these examples show that pop culture has and will continue to influence the development of new technologies.

This piece comes to us from one of our talented content contributors, Cynthia Sharpe. Her bio is below and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!

Sheeva Azma graduated with a BS in Brain and Cognitive Science from MIT in 2005 and earned her Masters in Neuroscience from Georgetown in 2013.  She has worked as a freelance science writer since July 2013, and has worked with clients including Georgetown Business School and Johnson & Johnson.


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