Just 20 years ago we were attaching bulky lights to our 8-bit Game Boys in order to save Princess Peach after sundown, and rewinding VHS tapes by hand to avoid surcharges from a now-defunct movie rental store. Now, just two decades later, we literally have flying cars and autonomous attack quadrotors capable of working together in the most terrifying fashion imaginable.
To put this incredible advancement of technology into perspective, here’s a look at three gadgets that are so innovative that it is hard to believe that they actually exist.
The Lytro is the first of its kind: a shutter-less camera capable of capturing the entire light field of an image, allowing aspiring photographers to focus the picture after it has already been taken. Yes, even the description sounds like it was written by Spock:
The Lytro camera captures the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space.
The prototype consisted of 125 individual camera tethered together in a panoramic array, but Lytro somehow managed to squeeze an entire room full of equipment into a handheld device no bigger than a standard point-and-shoot.
Despite the fact that Harry Potter doesn’t even have an iPhone to communicate with (or an owl, for that matter), Wizards have somehow managed to outpace muggles in the whole moving-ink department. Not to worry, dearies, Samsung recently showed off their new flexible screen technology, which they claim will make its way into customers’ eager hands next year. We’re still a few years away from rolling up televisions into our trousers, but a bendy-phone shouldn’t be too far off.
The thermostat industry may appear to be mild-mannered upon first glance, but we can assure you, it’s about to get very cool. The designer of the iPod broke into this not-overly exciting market in 2009, and just last week, he revealed his surprisingly elegant vision for the future of home temperature management. The Nest is a thermostat capable of programing itself based on the time of day, outside temperature, and whether or not you are home (yes, we are aware of how HAL9000 that sounds). It may seem unimpressive compared to a robot vacuum, but the Nest is the first step toward home automation for the masses. If a seemingly trivial appliance like a thermostat can come equipped with WiFi and advanced sensors, it’s only a matter of time before even the most mundane products become sentient. Plus, it’s able to save homeowners hundreds of dollars every year by reducing energy costs—and it looks lovely.