A Very Futurist Christmas

With the Saturnalian period upon us, everybody starts thinking about wonderful toys, books and gadgets that they would like to see under the Christmas tree.  During this period, there is also a deluge of lists and posts covering things you could buy for those close to you.

In this spirit, I thought we could spend a bit of time looking at a number of items that are well within the futurist paradigm.  Now, I’m not suggesting these necessarily as presents to put under the tree (although if anybody wants to send me the first one, I’ll pay shipping) – but rather as a fun exercise in discovering some of the futurist type items available at retail at the end of 2010.

1.  Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface (image by josephmunizjr, Flickr, CC)

The Microsoft Surface really representative of the kind of technology that will become standard within all modern, well-off households within the next decade or so.  The massive popularity of items such as the iPad is proof of concept that we all want a touch screen in our living rooms, and what better way to take that to its logical conclusion than to turn your coffee table into one!

Beyond all of the technical wizardry, currently one of the best applications for this piece of technology is in the playing of old-fashioned boardgames.  Which is just sublimely ironic, in a good way.

2.  iRobot Roomba

iRobot Roomba (image by Dano, Flickr, CC)Ever since people started watching the Jetsons, we’ve all wanted our own household cleaning robots.  Well, now we can finally get some nicely designed pieces of kit to start doing those menial chores that nobody really enjoys; and they’re finally starting to become affordable with the iRobot Roomba.  I’m still interested to see how well one of these things would cope with the rather rugged terrain that is my living room floor; but I’m sure for the more generally tidy these little guys would not only be a good novelty item but quite a useful little piece of the future.

3.  Shapeways.com and Makerbot

Makerbot Thing-O-Matic (image by makerbot, Flickr, CC)At first I was just going to put in a 3D printer, but then I thought that I couldn’t really put in something even more expensive than the Microsoft Surface.  During my research into trying to discover just how much a professional 3D printer would cost these days (turns out it’s in the region of US$40,000), I came across this wonderful company called Shapeways – and wouldn’t you know it, they do gift-cards!  Perfect.

For the more adventurous, and tech-savvy, there’s also the fantastic Makerbot: an open-source and affordable 3D printer for your home.

4.  Kinect

Microsoft Kinect (image by popculturegeek.com, Flickr, CC)Although I can already hear the cries of ‘the Wii got their first!’ (and I’m not even going to argue earlier generations as most of them were just plain broken), the Kinect offers us something different. Given that the number one film in my Top 10 Futurist Movies was Minority Report, you’re probably not surprised that the reason I chose the Kinect was mainly for its user interface possibilities.

Having tested one out briefly, it truly is a revolutionary change in the way we might interact with our technology.  Now, it’s not perfect by any means (and it’s a little bit creepy when the camera follows you around even when not specifically using it) but it’s definitely a step in the right direction!  Although not one for most of us who live in urban apartments and don’t have the luxury of large living rooms…

5.  Mindflex

What better way to say ‘future technology’ then to control things with your mind?  Although these things are obviously in the realm of novelty item, the fact that we can essentially give a basic EEG machine to our children and have them play around with it is quite remarkable.  Telekinetic powers are often a staple of any sufficiently advanced depiction of society, and these toys are showing us how science might be able to grant such an ability.  Just how effective they are in reality is a mixed blessing, but you can’t deny the futuristic coolness factor of Mindflex.

6.  3D TV (without glasses)

3D is making a comeback in a big way, but still many lament the fact that it requires us to wear often cumbersome glasses (although plenty of effort is being made in making them as stylish as possible).  But we hopefully won’t have to worry about such things for too long, as the first 3D televisions that don’t require one to wear glasses are now coming onto the market.

Granted, they are still quite small compared to their peers; but that’s a small price to pay for comfort and the all-important lack of geeky looking headwear.  Related directly to this technology, there are also 3D mobile phones that are utilising these techniques – and the much touted Nintendo 3DS that will be released at some point in 2011 will truly be a fantastic futurist gift for those of you already thinking ahead to next year.

7.  3D Camcorder

HDC-SDT750 Camcorder by PanasonicNow, a 3D TV (with or without glasses) just wouldn’t be complete for those of a futurist mindset without the ability to put your own creations on the screen.  Lucky, then, that Panasonic has come to the rescue with the HDC-SDT750.  Essentially, this isn’t really a new camcorder but is instead a 3D lens converter that does the job needed.  For the actually very reasonable price of £1496.99, all of your 3D directing desires can be met with this quite impressive piece of consumer kit.

I can just see it now: within the next year or two we are going to be inundated with 3D videos of people’s pets; pretentious film school projects; and amateur…homemovies.  Now we just need a streaming site that focuses on such video and away we go.

8.  Big Brother App (because we’re screwed anyway…)

Given how pessimistic I am sometimes, it would be remiss of me to just include happy-go-lucky futurist gifts and not highlight some of the more insidious and scary ones.  The PatriotApp is just one of those things.  Designed as a method for concerned and loyal citizens to quickly pass on intelligence to various local and federal departments, PatriotApp is already courting a lot of controversy for its obvious privacy implications.

As another step towards a totalitarian dystopia where we all spy on each other, it’s certainly not something that I would recommend you go out and buy.  If you see anything of true concern, you should just phone the appropriate emergency numbers that are already in place – I really don’t see the need for an item that helps us become jaded to the idea that we should be suspicious of everybody around us and every vigilant in the name of government control.

9.  LZR Swimsuit

For those of you that are avid swimmers, the LZR swimsuit (pronounced ‘laser’) is probably already on your radar.  Coming to prominence in 2008 because of its use, and subsequent controversy, in professional swimming; the LZR swimsuit represents the pinnacle of aquadynamic fabric on the retail market.  Not only is it imminently useful in shaving tens of seconds off of your laptimes, but it also gains points merely for looking cool in a futuristic way.

So there you have some wonderful items that any futurist worth their salt would love to see under the tree in a few days (minus the PatriotApp, please nobody actually purchase that insidious thing!). Obviously, I couldn’t cover everything; so I’d love to hear from anybody reading this of other futurist present ideas that you can come up with.  The only rule is that they have to be available at retail, and I look forward to hearing the weird and wonderful things that you find.

What’s something you would like for a very futurist Christmas?

2 Responses to A Very Futurist Christmas

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alessandro Muraro. Alessandro Muraro said: RT @FutureCon: [New] A Very Futurist Christmas – http://bit.ly/fB4mAW – which one would you want? #future #tech #futurist #gifts […]

  2. Anonymous says:

    A Tokamak. Or maybe a Tardis. Both kind of retro and futuristic at the same time. Speaking of which… I want a machine that reads vinyl, audiotape, VCR, CD, MP3, DVD, Blueray and all other formats past, present, and – er – future. I want to use my old stuff, and add to it with new stuff, well into the future!

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