Technological development has historically taken its cues from science fiction.
Indeed, several classic sci-fi tropes are already part of our reality today. We already have street-legal flying cars and immersive virtual worlds, and Google even revealed that it was at one point working on a jetpack.
Robots and artificial intelligence systems figure prominently into the storylines of many beloved sci-fi films and get the general public asking a key question — “what would I do with technology like that?” But we already have plenty of “technology like that” if you look around.
Let’s take a look at the robots and AI of today that will enable our sci-fi future.
“The Jetsons” famously featured Rosie, an autonomous housecleaning robot.
Today, Massachusetts-based iRobot offers its line of Roomba vacuum cleaners for sale to consumers. The devices can clean on a schedule and return to their charging stations when finished, so the only thing you really have to do is empty their dustbins.
Roombas currently rely on bumpers and sensors to navigate your house, but future models will use cameras and mapping software to build a map of the areas they clean so they can manoeuvre more effectively.
The movie “Robot And Frank” suggests that robots will find widespread use in the future to help take care of the elderly.
Antonio Espingardeiro, a PhD. student at the University of Salford at Manchester, has developed a prototype of an elder care robot called P37 S65. It offers medication reminders, to-do list management, and 24/7 supervision with the ability to trigger alarms for medical personnel if something should go wrong.
Terminator is a powerful humanoid robot that can run, jump, drive, and operate weapons.
Atlas, a robot by Google-owned Boston Dynamics, is the best comparison here. Largely used as a research platform, the robot is nimble enough to climb a ladder, drive a car, and even turn on a fire hydrant.
A team of roboticists at MIT is currently preparing its Atlas robot for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, in which robots compete to finish various tasks that are simply for people but much more difficult for robots.
HAL, the murderous AI aboard the ship in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” communicates with the human crew by speaking in plain English.
While it’s no robot, IBM’s supercomputer Watson similarly has the ability to communicate in conversational language.
Not only that, but its software was intelligent enough to comb through vast stores of data in order to successfully beat two former Jeopardy champions at their own game.
Watson’s applications for the future are rife with potential. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is using the Watson’s cognitive system as it attempts to eradicate cancer, and researchers are working with Cleveland Clinic clinicians, faculty, and medical students to otherwise advance Watson in the medical domain.
A scene in “Back To The Future 2” shows a character walking into her home and being greeted by home automation software, automatically turning on the lights.
The Nest smart thermostat takes a page out of this playbook, learning your temperature preferences and anticipating your adjustments to make your house slightly warmer or cooler.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.