9 times Science Fiction Predicted the Future of the Smart Home

From 3D printing and video calling to the rise of the internet, science fiction authors have made some astoundingly accurate predictions about the future of home technology

The best science fiction has an uncanny knack for eerily foreshadowing future technological developments, whether it’s in the field of transport, communication, or anything in between. Many times throughout history, outlandish concepts that once seemed wildly fanciful have become everyday occurrences, common sights in the average home.

Frequently, these visions of the future have centred around the home. Just what technologies will the people of tomorrow depend upon in their domestic lives? How will they cook, clean and relax in the comfort of their own homes?

In this infographic, we explore nine technologies that are today scientific realities yet trace their origins back to influential works of fiction and the minds of sci-fi visionaries. For example, did you know that George Orwell conceived of computerised voice recognition as early as 1948? Or that cult TV show Star Trek might just have kicked off the modern obsession with wearable technology?

Read on to learn about these and other bold predictions that came to be.

1. The Connected Home

Fiction: In his book The Machine Stops (1904), EM Forster described a world where people mostly communicate with each other via screens. Knowledge and information is shared by a system linking every home.

Reality: In the 1980s, Tim Berners-Lee’s research at CERN resulted in the World Wide Web, making information accessible between devices on the network. By 2016 there were approximately 22.9 billion connected devices worldwide.

The connected home

2. 3D Printing

Fiction: Years before it was viable, Neal Stephenson gave a detailed and scientifically accurate description of the exact method we use today for 3D printing in his book The Diamond Age (1995).

Reality: The first commercially available 3D printer was launched in 2009, it created three-dimensional objects from layers of material. Just like Stephenson’s ‘nano-assemblers’ in The Diamond Age.

3D Printing

3. Video Calling

Fiction: When mission commander Frank Bowman arrives at the space station in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, he places a videophone call to his daughter from a payphone booth.

Reality: Following the invention of services like Skype in 2003 and Facetime in 2010, now we all carry versions of Bowman’s videophone in our pockets!

Video Calling

4. Voice Recognition

Fiction: In George Orwell’s novel 1984, which was written in 1948, the characters used a device called a speakwrite, a Dictaphone which understands and records spoken word.

Reality: In 1952, Bell Laboratories produced the ‘Audrey’ system, which could understand spoken digits. Ten years later, IBM demonstrated the ‘Shoebox’ machine, which could handle 16 words. Today, with the likes of ‘Siri’ and ‘Alexa’, we are witnessing the dawn of the voice search age.

Voice Recognition

5. Vacuuming

Fiction: The 1962 TV show The Jetsons told the story of a family who lived in a futuristic utopia set in 2062 where household chores, like vacuuming were completed by helpful robots.

Reality: Today, vacuuming robots are increasingly popular and feature wi-fi connectivity, app controls and intelligent visual navigation.


6. Automated Chores

Fiction: In his novel Demon Seed (1973), Dean Koontz imagined an entire home operated by a computer program. The program was called Alfred and controlled everything from the lighting to temperature control, security, even the cooking!

Reality: Today’s households have a huge range of connected devices to help with chores, from connected slow cookers which allow cooking from a distance, to smart fridges and barcode readers which automatically order food.

Home chores automation

7. Flat Screen TVs

Fiction: Back in 1953, in his novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury imagined that homes of the future would have ‘parlor walls’, flat TV screens as large a living room wall.

Reality: The first flat plasma display panel was invented in 1964 and flat screen technology has gone on to produce screens of enormous dimensions. One of the largest being a 1.6million dollar, custom made TV which spans 370 inches – that’s the size of four elephants!

8. Automated Music Makers

Fiction: In his novel 1984, George Orwell envisaged a mechanical instrument called a ‘versifactor’ that could compose songs without any human intervention. 

Reality: In 2004, Apple launched GarageBand, an app which allows musical novices to create symphonies without ever having to pick up an instrument.

9. Wearable Technology

Fiction: Back in 1962, the Starfleet in TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation personnel wore communicator badges on their uniforms, allowing them to speak to each other remotely, as well as access the on-board computer. The ‘combadge’ could also be used to record logs.

Reality: In 2002, a start up in California start-up created a connected pin badge. Wearable technology continues to advance with the latest Apple Watch allowing users to communicate via text and voice, keep track of their health, control their smart home, pay for goods and services and of course, tell the time!

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