How Yesterday’s Science Fiction Envisioned Today’s Domestic Appliances
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For decades, science fiction has imagined a world where machines did all unpleasant domestic chores. We may not be there just yet, but some sci-fi predictions have come true – our homes are alive with technology and increasingly we rely on 'smart' devices to aid our everyday lives.
Ever since the idea of the 'robot' was imagined, it was with mechanic 'slavery' in mind. The word itself derives from the Czech 'robota', which refers to the idea of forced labour. And in many ways this is still true today – what's the point of developing new technology, if it can't make our lives easier? And technology has certainly done that so far. But science fiction has always gone one step further, and for decades it's envisioned a home with technology to rival a space ship.
Here's our look at the successful (and not so successful!) sci-fi predictions for our homes…
Voice-activated devices are now fairly commonplace, with many smart phone users being able to 'talk' to their phone to operate it – instead of those clunky old-fashioned buttons (or fiddly high-tech touch screens).
The idea of a voice activated computer has been sparking the imagination of sci-fi enthusiasts for decades, with Arthur C. Clarke's 'HAL' in 2001: The Space Odyssey, being one of the most memorable. Of course, the story of this voice-activated computer did not end well, with the helpful voice of HAL becoming increasingly sinister.
A more harmless and 'domestic' version of this technology was used in Star Trek, with the famous command of Captain Picard: "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" granting him a steaming-hot cup of tea.
Science fiction may have envisioned a world where humans calmly voiced their instructions to a kitchen filled with technology, but voice-activation has now reached domestic appliances with smart fridges.
Smart fridges allow the user to tell the fridge what they have bought so that fridge can monitor stock levels and order more milk if you run out – the fridge can even suggest recipes for the food which is stored in is frosty shelves.
'Robot maids' are a very common idea in science fiction. From 'Rosey the Robot Maid' in the Jetsons to C3PO in Star Wars, and the skutters in Red Dwarf, mechanical servants are a must-have.
While we may be a long way off developing a robotic assistant that's full of witty remarks, as well as cleaning know-how, the Roomba has now been released on the market – a vacuum-cleaning robot which hoovers your entire house. The Roomba can travel from room to room, vacuuming every inch or your house. The only drawback is that due to is circular design; it struggles to hoover into the corners. The Roomba can even re-dock itself when finished – it's a science fiction dream!
The Microwave Which Never Became the 'Hydrator'
Sometime science fiction presents ideas so good, you can't wait for them to become a reality. On other occasions, you're quite glad that the sci-fi vision of domestic bliss never came to be. This has to be the case with the 'hydrator' in Back to the Future.
The 'hydrator' is a microwave, which can hydrate and cook meals like pizza in a matter of seconds. Simply pop a tiny, dried biscuit-like pizza in and it pops out again as a sizzling cheesy feast. While in principle this may sound convenient, space-age and high-tech – would you really want to spend your life eating dried food that had been hydrated – it could become a diet of soggy dinners.
While, this prediction never came true, the humble microwave has become increasingly high-tech with portable microwaves available and desk-side USB-powered 'bean-cooking' microwaves. Well, that would certainly shorten the office queue for the microwave!
And perhaps the most sci-fi of all, the self-stirring pot, is the least high-tech. Instead of using complex technology, the pot applies the knowledge of vortexes and currents. This may sound incredibly space age, but the design of the pot works by using grooves on the inside of the pan to encourage a whirlpool effect.
How many times have you forgotten to stir your sauce and opened the lid to discover a burning sticky mess? This saucepan would put an end to a burnt sauce ruining your meal – and can allow you to multi-task whilst preparing complex meals.
While some sci-fi imaginings come true, others never really catch on. The modern home is becoming increasingly high-tech though and hopefully this proves you no longer need to be hurtling through space to have science fiction appliances.
Can you think of any science fiction ideas which have become a reality? Share your ideas below.
By Lee Gilbert
Category: Articles, News & Tips