What the Future Looks Like Now

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Picture by Anthony Conti. CC BY-SA 2.0
Picture by Anthony Conti. CC BY-SA 2.0

At some point in the past century, we lost confidence in our ability to predict the future. Maybe our spirits were crushed when long-promised jetpacks failed to materialize. Or perhaps it's because we haven't so much as visited Mars, never mind established colonies on the Moon.

But what if we're interpreting the present future too rigidly? It's possible we're a whole lot closer than we think.

Wearables

It turns out there was already hype over smartwatches back in 1979. The authors of a book titled Future Cities speculated that this wrist-radio—which they coined "risto"—was the direction that things would go.

While they never imagined the Pebble Time, they weren't too far off. There's a big display for reading electronic mail, a microphone, and buttons to interface with a world of knowledge. The main difference? Instead of a central satellite network, Pebble simply pairs with your phone and runs on existing cellular networks.

Solar Cooking

Back in 1950, Popular Mechanics predicted that cooking on solar ranges would be an everyday thing within 50 years. Due to the relative convenience of using gas and electricity indoors, it never quite took off.

But maybe it will. The GoSun Grill is cleanest, simplest implementation of solar cooking we've seen yet. It's super portable, fuel-free, stays cool to the touch, and can even cook well past sunset thanks to the thermal battery.

Flying Cars

The July 1957 issue of Popular Mechanics prominently featured a flying car on the cover. It was estimated that the vehicle would be available by the late ’60s. As we all know, the flying car ultimately failed to materialize. (Although, we did put human beings on the moon in 1969, so it wasn't, like, a lazy decade.)

The Hoverbike is a contemporary response to the flying car-shaped hole in our hearts. The important distinction is that this vehicle—the lovechild of a motorcycle and a helicopter—is totally real. Brilliantly, the team behind the Hoverbike is funding continued research and development by selling drone versions of the bike.

Electric Handshakes

Around 1905, scientists speculated that radio transmissions might one day allow us to see, and even feel, others across great distances. They imagined we would use complicated contraptions, such as the one illustrated above, for "electric handshakes." Even now, that sounds pretty wild.

And yet, Frebble pretty much allows you to do just that. The device pairs with your computer, and essentially allows you to hold hands with people over great distances. Just hop on Skype, give the pressure-sensitive device a squeeze and the person on the other end will feel your tiny hand hug.

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