September 23, 2021
On September 23, 1962, ABC Television broadcast the first episode of “The Jetsons,” which captured viewers’ hearts when it introduced America to the unimaginable technological conveniences and advancements we could all be enjoying in 2062 – the year in which the animated program is set.
In honor of the animated sitcom’s 59th anniversary, let’s take a look at how actual 21st-century technology stacks up to the prognostications that Hanna-Barbera and the Jetson family brought to our TV screens.
The Jetsons will perhaps be remembered most for causing countless people to ask the same question over the years: “Why can’t I buy a flying car?” While we may be a few decades away from flying cars that are safe enough to become ubiquitous, automotive tech has made significant strides since the 1960s. Could one of the companies that make smart, semi-autonomous cars today use their LIDAR, radar, computer vision, and other tech to build a safe flying car? Possibly.
Until then, there is the promise of self-driving vehicles. So, keep an eye on Waymo – the autonomous driving technology development company owned by Alphabet Inc. (Tii:GOOG), Tesla, Inc. (Tii:TSLA), and Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is working on an autonomous vehicle. They’re not alone. The big automakers are looking at autonomous technology as well. However, both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation would have to be on board before any car takes to the skies.
And then there was Rosie the robot. She took care of household duties while the family went about its business – providing a bit of sass in the process. She carried on conversations with the Jetson family, understood their orders, and behaved much like a live person with cognitive skills and emotional intelligence.
Today though, with the phenomenal growth in artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, convolutional neural networks, natural language processing, and edge computing, tech companies have turned out dozens of smart robot designs. Some of them work in military or manufacturing capacities, while others help surgeons operate on patients. Experts at New Scientist predict that robots will be able to beat us at everything by 2060 — which is pretty much in line with the Jetsons’ timeline. While no Rosie the Robot, autonomous home vacuum cleaners and moppers such as the Roomba and Braava by iRobot Corp. (Tii:IRBT) diligently clean millions of homes worldwide and are available in 2021.
Interplanetary Phone Calls
In an early episode, Elroy Jetson talks to someone on planet Plutonia via what appears to be an amateur “ham” radio. In reality, talking to people on other planets will have to wait for someone to build a base –most likely on Mars. That doesn’t sound too far-fetched considering how billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and the national space exploration agencies worldwide are sprinting along with new launch records and bigger rockets every year. Can we establish personal communications to Mars by 2062? That is entirely possible.
These days, many of us can certainly relate to George Jetson getting yelled at by Mr. Spacely via his “visiphone,” which in the 1960s was firmly ensconced in the realm of science fiction. Over the last few years, science fiction has become an everyday fact, with videoconferences becoming a daily part of our routines thanks to tech providers like Zoom Video Communications, Inc. (Tii:ZM), Microsoft Corp. (Tii:MSFT) and Alphabet Inc. (Tii:GOOG). Smart Devices The Jetson’s world became wireless long before the real world. For example, Elroy had a tiny antenna protruding from his cap that served as the 2060s version of a cell phone. Apparently, that tech didn’t require a handset. What’s the most comparable tech today? Wireless earbuds, perhaps, although they will not work without a handheld device to make the connection. And in this same general category, the Jetsons had a handheld “Micro Encyclopedia” and other gadgets we would call smart devices. Each year, manufacturers like Whirlpool Corporation (Tii:WHR) and Amazon.com, Inc. (Tii:AMZN), among many others, create smarter connected appliances and other devices.
While flying cars, interplanetary travel and personal jet-packs may not be readily available yet, the Jetson’s creators accurately predicted everything mentioned here as well as flatscreen TVs and doggie treadmills. Advances in existing technology lead us to believe that George, Jane, Judy, Elroy and Astro would get along in 2021 just fine.