‘The Jetsons’: How This Show’s Technology is Becoming Reality


The Jetsons was a hit TV show in the 1960s, featuring a late 21st Century American family and the sometimes-humorous they lived their lives. At the time, much of what viewers saw were well beyond what mid 20th Century technology could offer.

Fifty years later, we’re still a half-century away from when the show as supposed to take place. Even so, many of the show’s then-imagined technologies are already becoming reality, or certainly on their way to becoming so. Join us as we take a look at this iconic series and their modern equivalents.

Rosie the Robot

Rosie did it all for the Jetsons, from cleaning to watching the kids. While USA Today does note that we haven’t yet got a Rosie-like equivalent, but we’re getting close. Companies like iRobot have developed robotic vacuum cleaners, while others like Jibo will soon act as our personal assistants (although nowhere near as mobile or personable as Rosie was). Japanese mobile carrier Softbank also has its robot Pepper.

Perhaps the closest we’ve come is through Honda’s work on ASIMO. The robot has been in development since the mid 1980s, and the most recent versions of ASIMO look vaguely like Rosie does. While it has not yet gotten to the point of scrubbing the floors and keeping an eye on the little ones, ASIMO can do basic tasks like turning light switches off and on, push carts, and open doors.

Guess we’ll have to wait just a bit longer for our own Rosie.

Flying cars

Five decades after The Jetsons premiered, we’re still primarily using ground-based transportation. That’s not to say people aren’t trying to build actual flying cars, though. Terrafugia recently got approval to start testing a flying car that it hopes to sell by the start of the next decade, While Slovakian company AeroMobil hopes to have its own version for sale by next year.

The biggest problem noted by everyone is how to handle licensing. The cars these companies are planning to sell will be “bimodal,” or in plain English both a car and a plane. This means that companies will not only need to comply with Department of Transportation regulations on cars, but also the strict rules the Federal Aviation Adminstration places on planes.

Also, how will drivers be licensed? Our guess is that you’ll need both a driver and a pilot license, as flying a plane is much more difficult than driving a car.

Jetpacks

You might remember the jetpack that Elroy used to get around in the show: well, very soon you could be jetting around just like him. Several companies are already working on similar devices that work much in the same way. The Martin Jetpack is one of them, and is capable of traveling up to 30 minutes at a speed of 45 miles per hour at altitudes up to 3,000 feet.

Others like Jetpack Aviation are trying to do even better. The company claims is next generation Jetpack will be able to fly more than three times as high as Martin’s, with a blistering top speed of 100 miles per hour!

Instant meals

The Jetsons enjoyed fine dining in a flash with just the push of a few buttons. We too here in 2016 are getting ever closer to such a feat, although perhaps not as instant. Keurig, once only thought of as a instant coffee brewer, can now make all kinds of carbonated drinks and other liquid concoctions, while TechHive caught an automatic meal maker at this year’s CES by Sereneti. It might not be instant, but it’s pretty darn close.

Smartwatches

George Jetson wore a smartwatch of his own, something Samsung itself used as part of the first commercials for the Gear smartwatches in 2013. From the Pebble, to Android Wear, to the Apple Watch, we’re already doing many of the things that George did with his watch, including checking the time and chatting with friends.

Holograms

At Christmastime, the Jetsons had a holographic tree, Entrepreneur points out. While we aren’t quite decking the halls with a tree of our own, we’re getting close. Holograms are increasingly becoming more commonplace, the most recent and high profile example being the holographic appearance of Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

While MJ wasn’t quite to the technological specifications of what The Jetsons showed, we’re getting ever closer: just take a look at Microsoft’s Hololens project.

Video chats

George always managed to get himself in trouble, receiving mean video calls from his boss Mr. Spacely. Indeed we have come to that age ourself here in 2016, although it might not be our boss calling. Skype, Google Hangouts, even Facebook Messenger all provide means to chat over video, while Apple’s FaceTime service has become a popular way to keep in touch between iPhone users. One has to think though, maybe it’s best that our bosses haven’t used video chats to get a hold of us yet…

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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