Keeping up with The Jetsons: Cool tech that’s here but still out of reach
#2018 Year-End Special: Flying cars, robot housekeepers, hoverboards and jetpacks... are we there yet?
When the cartoon show The Jetsons debuted in 1962, it amazed the world with its vision of the world a century later — this was a future of flying cars, robot housekeepers and smart homes set in the ozone layer. Over 55 years later, we still have no tube houses in the stratosphere, and our humanoids can barely walk.
We're 3D printing a lot of stuff, but there' still no magic dinner-maker. And the tech wizardry that has materialized is certainly not within reach of the average executive at a sprocket company. Here's a look at some of the stuff that has made it to reality, but isn't commercially viable yet.
Nanobots and humanoids
We have humanoids that can walk, talk, take orders. But none of them can do all three. The ones that move can't speak, the ones that speak can't handle stairs. We are so far away from the age of sassy housekeeper Rosie, the sardonic Tars or Jarvis — or indeed the Terminators — that we might as well still be in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, the humanoid bots that we do have are so expensive, even companies can only afford to lease them, as promotional gimmicks.
As for the nanobots that can be ingested and piloted through the human body with precision, to kill tumors or fix organ damage — well, we've so far only made it to clinical trials on rats.
It doesn't help that nanotechnology requires gold, silver and cobalt of almost absolute purity.
Researchers believe we will have injectable nanobots by 2030. We've got Alexa and Echo et al, for now. Perhaps it's better slow than sorry. What we definitely don't want is Hal. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave".
At the opening of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, thousands of spectators (and millions more watching on TV) witnessed history being made as a man flew in using a jetpack. Prototypes come out every year, including one created by JetPack Aviation this year. But they're loud and heavy… and don't fly very far.
A levitating skateboard would be especially helpful with potholes and waterlogging, wouldn't it? In 2015, Lexus created a hoverboard with powerful magnets that cooled to -197 degrees Celsius, allowing the board to ride along a track hidden in the surface of the skate park. But it couldn't float over regular roads. So we're still waiting.
Interstellar travel, homes on another planet
Or at least the moon? They promised that by now we'd be looking at a view of Earth from thousands of miles away, at least. We've sent probes, landed rovers, gone beyond our solar system. But only a dozen people have actually touched down on another celestial body, and none has gone beyond the moon.
With the end of the Cold War, the space tech race eased and the focus shifted to communications and monitoring satellites. All the exciting stuff on other worlds is now being done by robots.