Often, we go to the movies or watch TV to escape the mundane realities of our everyday lives. But as time and technology advance, ideas that were once twinkles in the eyes of writers have turned from sci-fi dream to tangible reality. In no area is this more apparent than in communication technology. And surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly), some very old concepts are driving the future of innovation. Let’s take a look at some of them…
Wearable communication devices (i.e. the “smart watch”)
There was a time when Dick Tracy was the only person who really needed two-way communication via his wristwatch. That time has passed, and now smart watches are making their way to the marketplace. It’s yet to be seen how they will take with the general public, and the first generation of these devices will most certainly come with some kinks to work out, but the concept is definitely pushing the envelope when it comes to device integration, form and functionality.
Any number of movies feature a car video “chat” (or video phone) functionality, but the James Bond film You Only Live Twice sticks out in my mind. It seemed absurd, and maybe even unnecessary to need to video chat with someone anywhere you were, but features like Apple’s FaceTime have proven themselves worthy to consumers. We may not have the exact functionality Bond had built into our cars today (for safety sake), but certainly the capability is there.
The “smart” in “smart [insert device]”
Trekkies (Star Trek fans) will fondly recall many visits Capt. Kirk and Co. made to alien planets, and how the team almost always first scanned the unknown area with a tricorder, which would report back critical information. Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia (very official, right?) definition of “tricorder” could almost fit that of any smart device with corresponding apps or attachments: “...A tricorder is a multifunction hand-held device used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording data.”
No matter what movie, series or show you’re talking about, almost all “futuristic” technology is wireless. Certainly everything mentioned above had no need for USB cables or AC outlets to operate properly across long distances. They were anytime, anywhere devices, and that’s definitely the direction today's technical minds and engineers are pushing our society.
What’s the big idea?
First, it’s just fun to look at what seemed futuristic and impossible even 30 years ago and note just how far we’ve come. Second, these examples show us why it's important to ask “why not” when it comes to new ideas and new technologies and embrace an open-minded spirit of innovation; if we strive for the impossible, we can make great things happen along the way.
Finally, I think it highlights our need, and especially a business need, to constantly adapt. Think about it like this: Superman used to get changed in a phone booth. I don’t know where he’d change today, but the cell phone has certainly made him rethink that whole process. The things we think are bogus and unrealistic may not be that far off from becoming must-haves in the workplace, rendering the technology we have now obsolete. As we deal with the present, it’s important to always keep one eye on the future.