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10 Futuristic Technologies That Are More Cool Than Useful

by Gregory Myers
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Science fiction movies and other futuristic fantasies have filled our imaginations with amazing ideas of what things could be in the future. These stories make us want many things we can only imagine, and now scientists are trying to make some of them a reality. While sometimes these futuristic concepts turn out to be useful ideas, there are many things scientists are now trying to make because they saw it in a movie, and not necessarily because it is at all practical.

Related: Top 10 Twisted Theories About the Future of Technology

10 Flying Cars: Same Problems as Helicopters & Aren’t Practical

Why Don’t We Have Flying Cars Yet?

Flying cars are one of those things that many people have wanted for decades and that some alive today had thought we were supposed to have by now. This all comes back to the strange expectation some people have come up with in their heads, where just because they saw it in a movie and a few scientists liked the idea, we will eventually have it. The problem is that fantasy doesn’t always equate to reality, even with advanced technology, and a flying car doesn’t really make sense.

The issue is that a flying car offers all the problems a helicopter provides without really offering any benefit in return. While it gains the ability to fly, this hybrid status is really the only thing it has going for it over an actual helicopter, which is more designed for straight-up flying. If a flying car is not going to have good spots to land, then it has little reason to be able to fly, and if it has good spots to land regularly, then it has no need to also be a car. Airways would also quickly become clogged, requiring air traffic control, accidents would be more deadly, and licenses would be harder to obtain—decreasing the practicality even more.[1]

9 Touchscreens: Terrible for Productivity

Can Tablets Replace Laptops? I tried for 7 days

Touchscreens look really cool in movies, and most futuristic movies show touch screens used as the main way of interacting with computers. Especially in movies like Minority Report, they make it look really cool, with the hero actually grabbing bits of touchscreen and dragging them across the room to another computer using digital power gloves. The movies make it look so cool that we want that to be us. Then, designers started to put it in products, and we realized that it sucked.

When tablets came out, the late Steve Jobs said he thought they would turn things into a post-PC world. This turned out to be rather false. Not only are PCs and laptops still going strong for productivity tasks, but tablets were also quickly sold with keyboard attachments even when they were big, showing what people really needed. Touchscreens work okay on a phone, but when you blow things up and want to use them for actual work, you get a bit of a problem. One of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, is writing anything lengthy and professional. This will soon become aggravating and hard to do on a flat screen, and you will soon want a keyboard.[2]

8 Robots with Sentience Mimicry: Awkward & Impractical

Will artificial intelligence ever become sentient? – BBC News

Pretty much every sci-fi movie has robots of some kind that have a form of artificial sentience, and they are usually some kind of sidekick to the human characters. They may be able to translate languages or have special tools. Usually, they are seen as so useful that they just follow the character around everywhere, and we really don’t think about it.

However, when you stop and think about it for a second, taking artificial intelligence and stuffing it in a metal shell that moves around doesn’t help us that much. AI might have some uses in computer applications, but humans are just better at being human. And we mean even with sci-fi tech.

A researcher did a study and found that R2-D2 and his tools would be pretty useless in our world and that if you put BB-8 in a desert, he would be worse than useless. As for C-3P0, he is incredibly impractical and makes little sense in a universe with that much technology. He is basically a Google translator that you have to bring around with you instead of using your phone. And he can barely get around, as Anthony Daniels couldn’t get up steps in that suit.[3]

7 3D Movies: Never Caught on as People Don’t Like It

Why 3D Movies Keep Failing – Cheddar Explains

Every several years or so, a few big movie studios push for 3D movies to become a big thing again. The theater gets to charge a bit more money, and you get handed these fancy glasses to look through. The novelty can be fun to see a dinosaur coming at you or something of the like, but most people don’t go particularly out of their way to see one. This is where things keep falling through for the producers, as they really seem to want this to be a thing, but the consumers don’t seem that interested.

And there is a good reason why consumers aren’t really that into 3D movies. It turns out that a good quarter of people have some kind of trouble with 3D movies, even if it is only eye strain and mild headaches. This means that trying to make it the wave of the future doesn’t exactly work, as you have already lost a huge part of your audience before you’ve even started. To make matters worse, some people just cannot see 3D movies at all, as they lack the proper depth perception to make it work.[4]

6 Virtual Reality: Movie Lovers Dream & Not Really Practical

Everything Wrong With Virtual Reality | Untangled

Virtual reality is something that many people like to think of as the way things will simply be one day. Many of them will point to books or movies where this was a reality, and all the researchers are now trying to make that happen. However, sometimes researchers make things not because they are that great an idea but because they were inspired by a book or movie as a kid. But now, they want it to be a reality.

While these researchers and inventors may have their hearts in the right place, it seems unlikely that it will catch on any time soon, if ever. The virtual reality we now have with goggles can give people serious disorientation, nausea, perception issues, headaches, and the like, which are not exactly good reasons to buy an expensive headset.

However, even if we could overcome all of these problems and provide truly immersive VR where you felt like you were actually in the world, we would just be creating bigger problems. VR being so immersive can actually be a negative, as many parents, just as an example, like to watch their kids while playing video games. You cannot do things like this if you are truly caught up in a virtual world.[5]

5 Video Calling: Something Most Avoid at All Costs

2020’s Most Embarrassing Zoom Moments

Video calling is something that we have seen in pretty much every sci-fi movie, book, or other story about the future. It is an instant sign you are seeing something set in a truly futuristic time, and it makes the whole thing look really cool. This added flair makes us feel more of a connection to the characters as we see their emotional state. So a lot of scientists decided that would be really cool. They went ahead and made it a thing where you could do it in real life.

And then, when it became real, we found out that we actually really, really hate video calling and that it really sucks. It turns out video calling is almost universally despised, and most people hate Zoom calls, Facetime, and everything else. They feel that they are expected to be always on or showing off and that it bothers them. It also requires extra setup to make sure you look right and takes away your privacy, both of how you look and whatever you have in the background.[6]

4 Public Transit Systems: More Effective Than Self-Driving Cars

Inside Zoox: The robot vehicle totally changing transportation | Hard Reset by Freethink

Self-driving cars are an idea that seems to have first started testing with Google many years ago, and then when car companies saw that this interested people, they started trying to get in on the action themselves. Everyone from Ford to Tesla is now trying to make their own version and is continuing to advance their technology. However, they seem to be getting no closer to actually giving us self-driving cars. Even limited self-driving functionality seems to have a lot of problems when it is tested. No one is even close to trusting the safety of self-driving cars, even though they tend to insult the skill of other human drivers all day long.

And while consumers may be wary, the bigger problem is regulators. Studies have shown that unless we encounter some huge breakthrough, we will probably not be seeing fully self-driving cars any time in the foreseeable future. Self-driving cars simply cannot react to unexpected circumstances the way a human being can. You could go all out with a self-driving vehicle, but then you might as well just make everything public transportation in the first place, which is more energy efficient. In fact, this is how they are starting to do things in Southeast Asia, where 25% of public transportation is driverless.[7]

3 Light Speed Travel: Won’t Help Us Explore Space Very Much

Why Travelling At The Speed Of Light Is a Bad Idea

Some people like to talk about the theory of light-speed travel and how perhaps we could one day figure it out. Researchers are trying to figure it out right now, and they think there is some indication that they may be starting to get closer. Of course, this leaves us with the issue of making sure a human can travel safely at the speed of light and all that other stuff involved. However, even if they figure it out, light-speed travel is unlikely to really help us out that much.

In movies like Star Wars, hyperspace travel is called lightspeed, but unless these planets are super close together, they are doing something else than what we call lightspeed. You see, the problem is that in cosmic terms, lightspeed is actually really slow. If we were just trying to explore our solar system, it would be quite helpful, but beyond that, it wouldn’t be very useful. The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is over four light years away but isn’t of much interest. The next closest star system, and one of more interesting, is Betelgeuse, and it is about 700 years away by light-speed travel.[8]

2 Heads-Up Displays: Clogging Our Visual Field & Annoying Us

I Wore Smart Glasses for 100 Hours… This is What Happened

For those who were worried that Google Glass would get us all caught up in another world or that Apple’s latest attempt or Facebook’s meta will take over everything, you probably don’t need to worry. Meta isn’t exactly doing super well, and it seems that while people like the idea, when it comes to the actual reality of it, most people would prefer to live in the real world and not a virtual or augmented one.

And this is evidenced by stats that prove that people just don’t really like this tech, even when it does work. Ray Bans made a set of augmented reality smart glasses especially to go with meta, and it turns out that not only are people not using them that much, but they are barely touching the expensive product they bought.

Less than ten percent of bought glasses were used once a month, much less daily like companies hoped. As for why they are not catching on, it is hard to say for sure. There are some tech problems, but most people aren’t using them enough to run into these issues. It may just be that clogging up our visual field just isn’t really that helpful. Whatever the actual reasons, the consumer demand just is not there.[9]

1 Brain Implants: Scary Implications & Little Value

Elon Musk’s Neuralink Scares Me

Neuralink is something that brings up strong feelings in most people. Some think the whole thing sounds really cool and want one now, while others are either nervous or scared by the whole thing. Regardless of how you feel, though, there is no question that it is super cutting-edge technology, and it is something many have thought we may have one day, even if the idea is a bit frightening.

However, as this sort of device gets closer to being real, the fears about the problems with it are becoming less nervous hypotheticals from people who are still interested in the idea and more horrifying realities that should probably give us all pause. For starters, remember that this is an electronic device, so it still needs power, and that means a lithium ion battery, as we don’t have much better yet. If this battery leaks, it could cause serious tissue damage to your brain, and it is hard to say how badly that would go for you. Even scarier, the chip could be hacked, and while it likely couldn’t mind-control you, there are still all kinds of awful implications at the very idea.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen