From jetpacks to talking cars: How fiction can inspire consumer tech

Order up a digital movie selection at home and you may see cars autonomously careening down highways (I, Robot), artificial intelligence (AI), robots that cook, clean and cater to our every whim (Iron Man) or augmented reality cityscapes serving up advertisements tailored to our individual wants and needs (Minority Report). But how far off, really, are these Hollywood sci-fi creations? The Las Vegas show floor at CES each January or the show floor of CES Asia in Shanghai allow the public to see, touch and feel the life-changing technologies about to hit the market – from autonomous vehicles, to commercial drones, to 3D printers. Here’s a look at some of the game-changing, next-generation tech leaping from the movie screen to your smartphone.

Drive – or Don’t Drive - Like Batman

Driverless cars even smarter than the Batmobile are in the works, with the promise to make transportation faster, safer and more inexpensive. 

At the inaugural CES Asia in Shanghai in May, Audi and Volkswagen demonstrated driverless car technology. Jaguar recently patented a technology for eye-controlled windshield wipers. BMW is developing applications compatible with the Apple Watch and looking to implement gesture controls into its vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is working with thermostat maker Nest to ensure our smart cars sync with our smart homes through the Internet of Things (IoT), giving your home a heads up when you’re on your way, so the thermostat has time to heat or cool your house accordingly.

By 2020, we could have fully autonomous vehicles on city streets, boasting features like driver override systems, biometric vehicle access, comprehensive vehicle tracking, active window displays and remote vehicle shutdown. 

Iron Man’s IoT in Your Home

A real life Jarvis – the fictional AI butler that keeps Tony Stark’s household in order when he’s fighting crime as Iron Man – is still a ways off, but thanks to IoT our homes are getting smarter. Technology is taking charge of our traditional household chores through devices like autonomous vacuum cleaners, smart sprinkler systems and a kitchen that will cook you dinner.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® reports consumers are increasingly willing to turn over certain household chores, such as gardening and home security, to robots—a trend that started with the introduction of iRobot’s Roomba autonomous floor vacuum in 1990. The company has since introduced floor scrubbing, pool cleaning and gutter cleaning robots as well.

More and more devices in our homes are becoming sensorized, connected to the web and connected to one another. Already our smartphones can be used to control thermostats, lighting and door locks. And LG’s latest washers and dryers are Wi-Fi-enabled and equipped with the company’s ThinQ app, which lets users set cycle alerts and program their machines with a couple of taps on the smartphone – anywhere, anytime.

Never Again be Clueless About Style  

In Clueless – the 90s movie about teens in Beverly Hills – the main character has a  computer-generated revolving closet packed with designer labels. The wardrobe is even able to pick out the perfect outfit.

Closets that double as personal stylists aside, technologies like RFID (radio frequency identification) tags and triggers, are transforming the shopping experience by helping customers select outfits. At Burberry, for example, when a customer picks up an item, the tag triggers an interactive video illustrating the materials used to make that product and providing suggestions on complimentary pieces and virtual displays like Toshiba’s Virtual Fitting Solution let you see what you’d look like in that dress, just by walking in front of the screen.

What was once merely a big-screen, sci-fi future is now becoming our present-day reality. The consumer technology industry is only a few steps behind the creative imaginations of Hollywood—and in some cases, a step or two ahead. And while we may be decades away from jetpacks, hoverboards and AI assistants, technology is already revolutionizing the way we live, work and play.