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Create a new smart home, rescue home automation systems or get support to ensure smart home systems deliver the best experience.
+44 (0) 20 7193 9691hello@bakerstone.com
December 16, 2023

16 Film and TV Predictions About Smart Home Technology That Were Bang-On

Christmas is a time for the old to be reminded of their joyful yesterdays, for the young to look forward to exciting tomorrows and for everyone to enjoy today. It’s also a time to have some fun and look at how sci-fi films and television series predicted smart home technology.

Either way, you know you’re getting old when the sci-fi films of your youth start to come true. All the noise being made about real-life AI, self-driving cars and voice-activated assistants does harken back to the great sci-fi of the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s. As smart tech professionals, we are ideally placed to watch as yesterday’s fantasies become today’s big ideas.

The Jetsons - Starting our list with a special mention

When I was young, I would enjoy watching a recording of A Jetson’s Christmas Carol that my grandma made for me on video (remember those?). As well as circling us back around neatly to Christmas, this little futuristic family stand out as one of yesterday’s greatest predictors of today’s smart home technology. Among other things, the Jetsons predicted:

  1. Smart homes - it’s not outrageous to say that the Jetsons were the first to really bring the idea of the automated smart home to the small screen way back in 1962.
  2. Voice-controlled home assistants – Does anyone remember Rosie the Robot Maid?
  3. Smart home control panels – Every room in the Jetsons’ home had several panels that could be used to conveniently control the various devices they owned.
  4. Flat screens and home cinemas – Flat screens are old news now, but in 1962, TV screens were huge cathode ray tubes with little screens and lots of bulk. The various huge 2D TVs that emerged from the walls of the Jetsons’ home must have seemed as futuristic as the homes in space. The show also predicts that while regular-sized flat screens can be found everywhere, more luxurious home cinemas are owned by wealthy types, such as George Jetson’s boss, Mr. Spacely.
  5. Smart home security and spy drones – When George Jetson and Mr. Spacely lie to their wives to watch a Spaceball game on TV, the two shrewd spouses deploy a robotic ‘Snitcher Picture Taker’ to track them down, video them and raise the alert. This combines concepts from the smart security system with slightly more exotic spy drone technology.
  6. Robotic vacuum cleaners – In several scenes, it was possible to see a vacuum cleaner cleaning the floors of 104 Skypad Apartments.
  7. Video calls and video conferencing – The Jetsons often chat to each other via video link, and George Jetson has to put up with being yelled at by his boss Mr. Spacely on a massive moving screen that seems to be ready to get in his face wherever he is at work.

Boldly going where no smart home technology has gone before…

Star Trek was another impressively prescient sci-fi series, predicting several smart home technology advances, including:

  1. Voice-activated virtual assistants – No matter what sticky situations the crew of The Enterprise got themselves into, a quick word to the computer could always yield help. The computer could also control a wide range of appliances around the ship and in the crew’s quarters, playing music, making meals and altering the lights, much like the Alexas and Siris of today.
  2. Universal translators – On the subject of Star Trek’s shipboard computers, their universal translation ability allowed the crew to talk to aliens and eachother easily, regardless of nation or planet of origin. Many virtual assistants and video conferencing apps have a similar ability, albeit not such a seamless or interstellar one.
  3. Tablets – Not strictly a smart home technology, but often used to control smart appliances, just as the hand-held touchscreens of Star Trek: Next Generation were. One observant fan took a picture of, as he said, “me using my iPad to watch a character on Star Trek watch a home movie on a touchscreen device that looks uncannily like an iPad.”. My cup runneth over. 
  4. Biometric ID and security – When it was first aired in Star Trek, the ability to unlock doors or devices just by looking at or pressing your finger to them must have seemed very futuristic. Now though it is common in a wide range of smart TVs, security systems and mobile phones.

More smart home technology predictions

  1. Service robots - Star Wars / Rosum’s Universal Robots – In the Star Wars universe, robotic droids serve people (and aliens) in almost every capacity. Their jobs include translating conversations like C3PO, flying ships like R2D2, food and drink service and much more.

While our automated assistants are somewhat less humanoid, we often find ourselves installing smart appliances to make drinks, serve food and translate between languages on command.

Venturing back further in dramatic history, Rosum’s Universal Robots first predicted automated service machines and in doing so created the word robot way back in 1920.  While modern smart homes don’t involve many humanoid machines, this play and film was perhaps the most distantly prescient of the dramas in this article.

  1. Smart watches – Dick Tracy – Another drama that saw a long way ahead of its time was Dick Tracy. The titular hero of this 40s/50s radio and TV series had a watch with a range of gadgets including a radio and, later, a video call device, on it. That’s around 75 years before the advent of the iWatch.

Into the garage

  1. Remote control cars (not the toys) – James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies - The little plastic things you can control by wiggling sticks around are neither new nor smart. However, cars that can be remotely unlocked, started and even controlled in some ways are. The film saw Bond remotely start his car while hiding from the enemy, driving it to him before jumping into the back seat and driving to safety.  
  2.  Self-driving cars – I Robot - One of the major action sequences in the I Robot film sees a frustrated Will Smith taking control of his self-driving car to avoid a robot attack.

Interestingly, while smart cars don’t feature in the short story on which the film is based, Isaac Asimov wrote a factual article predicting the creation of ‘cars with robot brains’ long before their invention.

"Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with 'robot-brains' – vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver,"

The rapid advance of smart technology means that his prediction may one day come true. However a series of serious accidents involving self-driving cars has left a once imminent-looking technology seeming further away than ever. The ensuing legal and financial difficulties have put a serious dampener on the concept.

A closely related innovation you may have seen on the large and small screen could come to the industry’s rescue though.

  1. Partially automated cars – Knight Rider - It looks unlikely that we will all be letting our cars drive us around completely any time soon. The crash of the automated vehicles industry may be the cue for the realisation of another film staple though: The partially automated car.

Automated vehicles lack the human ability to quickly identify and reflexively resolve complex dangers. However,  their speed and ability combine well with human strengths to create a super-safe driving team, as any fan of Knight Rider will tell you.

This 80s show featured an intelligent car called K.I.T.T that teamed up with a detective to enforce the law. While the series’ four-wheel hero had the intelligence to drive itself, it would more often use its intellect to support driver Michael Knight, only taking over when necessary to avoid danger. This is exactly how commentators see futuristic partially automated vehicles working.

To Sum Up

The 50s, 60s and 70s were the golden age of predictive sci-fi, with Star Trek and Star Wars making shrewd forecasts about the smart technology of the future. The undisputed kings and queens of this trend were The Jetsons though, making no less than seven accurate predictions about smart homes of the future. The setting of the series in a futuristic home probably helped this fact, as well as their love of exotic gadgets.  

Overall, popular drama has done a pretty good job of predicting smart home technology, albeit with a few misses.

Predictions aside though, Baker Stone wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.