Much has changed on this tiny blue pea since Futurama first came on the air way back in 1999. “Umami” entered the English lexicon. We entered a new millennium. New York City was attacked by terrorists on an unprecedented and shocking manner. Futurama got canceled. One of these facts upset people in your social circle more than the others, depending on who you hung out with and what their grip on reality was like.
Now that Futurama’s seems secure for the time being – it’s expected to air well into 2013 on Comedy Central – we figured this would be a good time as any to look back and the gifts we didn’t even realize Futurama gave us: technology, gadgets, and other mechanical whizz-bangs that the show has nearly made a reality by demonstrating its usefulness a full 1,000 years from now.
7) The Smell-o-Scope
Well, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re pretty darn close. Professor Farnsworth wants to be able to smell a dog turd in another galaxy in the year 3000. In the year 2012, the Department of Homeland Security, of all things, is leading the front on getting us closer to the odors of our dreams first realized in 1960’s Scent Of Mystery, which employed Smell-O-Vision. Anyways, the DHS is funding research by three companies to develop a chip that will be implanted in cell phones to identify and alert users when “potentially deadly smells” are nearby. I’ll forgo the obvious fart joke here and reiterate: By enabling technology to be aware of smells the human nose can’t detect, that’s just like being able to smell things the unaided nose can’t smell otherwise. Also, farts we didn’t know even existed.
6) Holograms Everywhere
Scientifically speaking, when Tupac Shakur emerged as a hologram during Coachella this year to perform with Snoop Dogg, everyone in attendance literally shat themselves at the same moment. Not only did this disprove Shakur’s theorem that he was “a ride til my casket drop,” but it also opened the door to Freddie Mercury making a comeback and basically, welp, us running into holograms all the damn time. So, will head-in-a-jar technology advance enough in the next millennium to give us the Beastie Boys in their entirety so they can perform ancient rap songs to our descendants? What, too soon?
5) Career Chips
In Futurama, career chips are tiny microchips implanted into people’s palms to assign them their permanent career. In reality, such things would be a violation of basic human rights, free will, and not to mention also pretty darn scary. (“What if I don’t get ‘delicious candy taster’ as a career?!'”) What’s kinda less scary is that implantable microchips aren’t really anything new. They just don’t have many applications just yet. RFID chips have long been implanted into pets for identification purposes, and in 2010, Dr. Mark Gasson of the University of Reading in the UK elected to get the RFID chip in his hand infected with a virus. Why? Because he probably wasn’t getting enough attention already with an RFID chip in his hand.
4) The Holophonor
It’s not exactly the same thing, but, believe it or not, the iTunes app store has a pretty close approximation of the instrument Fry used to win Leela’s heart. The instrument, which is basically impossible, one would think, is an amalgamation of an clarinet, the bagpipes, and a holographic projector, showing images that the musician is thinking of while blaring out “Hot Cross Buns” or other fine songs you’d associate with the oboe. Sonic Wire Sculptor turns lines you draw in real-time into melodies and sounds – and they rotate around a 3D axis, creating loops. So, assuming you’re imagining an orb or some Morse code, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you might have to wait a couple years and for the clarinet to make a comeback for this to become a faithful reality.
3) Tube-Transport System
If you’ve read this list this far, you know about the tube-transport system in Futurama. It’s there in the very first episode, and it could be coming to reality very, very soon. The proposed Evacuated Tube Transport, which uses “magnetic levitation” (those Insane Clown Posses were right about magnets!) can allow passengers sealed in tubes to travel approximately 4,000 miles per hour “while remaining airless and frictionless.” Apparently, also, “passengers will not experience discomfort because the tube… [will be] comparable to riding in a normal car on a highway.” Right, well. Who wants to be the first one in an accident going at 4,000 miles an hour?
It can be touch to tell how cool someone is, objectively. The thing is, Futurama did not invent this concept, but merely an evolution of the Internet. Remember hotornot.com? Good to know where this is all gonna wind up.
1) The Net Suit
Anyone who took the day off to play Diablo III only to be greeted by the not-so-welcoming error 37 knows that Internet connections and servers aren’t yet able to handle the Sisyphean tasks our imaginations would like them to. All the other technology is there, though: virtual reality, 3D imaging, Jamiroquai-like conveyers in a stationary room, and the smell of rhesus monkeys. The only hindrance, really, is the speed of the Internet. Maybe if you get off it right now it’ll speed up enough for the net suit to be real?