Do you have an Amazon Echo? How about some smart light bulbs or a Nest thermostat? While many homes are starting to use smart technology to automate basic tasks, the modern house is still pretty primitive compared to its cinematic counterparts.
Smart-home technology has been featured in dozens of movies and television shows over the years. Sometimes these automated gadgets are deadly. Sometimes they’re useful. Sometimes all they want is to make a baby with you. (We’ll get to that later.) Here are some of the coolest smart homes that have appeared on screen.
While the world was pretty disappointed when the hoverboard — no, this is not a hoverboard! — didn’t appear in 2015 as foretold by the prophetic Back To The Future II, we still have until 2063 for some of the more advanced technology featured in The Jetsons to appear. The show, which first aired in 1962, was right on the money with its portrayal of flat-screen TVs and video conferencing, so I think it’s safe to say that flying cars are right around the corner.
Technology we’re still waiting for: An automatic toothbrush that brushes your teeth for you, flying cars, and robotic maids that are equal parts sass and assistance.
Back To The Future II: wrong on hoverboards and so much more. Where’s our Black & Decker Hydrator? How about double neckties? Or virtual-reality glasses? Okay, so the film did get the VR thing correct, but future Marty’s glasses look like they were made as part of a DIY project.
Technology we’re still waiting for: Real hoverboards.
While most smart-home tech — which includes both existing products and cinematic interpretations — are designed to be intelligent enough to make life a little easier, the AI system in 1977’s Demon Seed, Proteous 4, had enough power to “make obsolete the human brain.” This smart home could truly do everything, including choke you, subdue you, spy on you in the bathtub, inseminate you, and shoot lasers at you.
Technology we’re still waiting for: If someone figured out how to remove the murderous tendencies from Proteous 4, the Enviromod Security System and Joshua the wheelchair would actually be pretty cool to have around.
If you like the idea of watching a smart house run amok but don’t want to see a computer forcibly inseminating someone, you should check out Smart House. Well, maybe you should just watch a clip or two. This made-for-TV movie from former Reading Rainbow star LeVarr Burton doesn’t showcase much in the way of feasible technology. In fact, computer Pat’s main trick seems to be playing video on a really big screen. In the AI’s defense, however, it does come with built-in bully controls and the means to throw a killer dance party.
Technology we’re still waiting for: Voice-controlled “Kick-butt video screens.”
Amazon’s Alexa can complete thousands of tasks, sure, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Samantha, the voice behind the AI operating system in Her. Samantha is similar to Proteous 4, though less murder-y, and her intelligence goes well beyond the current capabilities of today’s machines. Not only can Samantha complete basic tasks such as turning on the TV and relaying the weather, she’s also imbued with a personality and plays a part in nearly every aspect of Theodore Twombly’s life.
Technology we shouldn’t be waiting for: A ubiquitous voice assistant who actually understands everything we say.
Tony Stark may have made most of his money as an arms dealer, but the eccentric billionaire could have been just as successful selling home technology. JARVIS, Just A Rather Very Intelligent System, is probably the smartest AI system in the Marvel galaxy. In the short clip above, we see JARVIS activate the lights, music, and displays in Stark’s workshop. The system also provides a brief update regarding the day’s affairs, (almost) blends a drink, measures Stark’s fluid intake, analyzes his blood, and alerts him that a guest is arriving.
While JARVIS may be a few years ahead of its time, some people have already started installing — or at least imitating –Stark’s technology in their homes.
Technology we’re still waiting for: The ARC reactor.
While JARVIS wins for intelligence, Samantha gets the award for personality, and Proteous 4 gets the award for creepiest household machine, nobody can compete with Wallace and Gromit when it comes to useless technology that might be borderline genius.
The stop animation show’s “Cracking Contraptions” segment tackles a variety of household problems with varying degrees of success. Well, most of them actually end in failure. Wallace and Gromit may not be the most successful inventors in the world, but they definitely proved that there’s more than one way to solve (and cause) a problem.
Technology we’re still waiting for: A Rube Goldberg remote control.