Times Futurama Freakishly Predicted The Future

Fittingly for a show about the future, Futurama
was ahead of the curve in all sorts of ways. Who would have thought that a world full of
alcohol-powered robots and Smell-O-Scopes would end up resembling our own? Here’s all the times that Futurama freakishly
predicted the future. One of the most ubiquitous pieces of technology
in the world of Futurama is the wrist-mounted computer. Though they never get an official name, Leela
typically refers to hers as a “wrist thingy.” Leela has used her wrist thingy as a phone,
a clock, a remote control for the Planet Express ship, and basically everything else. Ever since the days of The Jetsons, we have
longed for wristwatch computers, but when Futurama premiered, they were still a distant
dream. The closest thing we had at the time was Samsung’s
SPH-WP10, a wrist-mounted cell phone that weighed 50 grams and had a battery life of
90 minutes. Over the past few years though, this dream
has more or less come true, with smartwatches like the Apple Watch that can now approximate
many of the functions of a smart phone. Of course, unlike Leela’s wrist thingy, the
Apple Watch can’t record someone rapping and then analyze the success rate of their rhyme-busting. In many ways, our modern world doesn’t look
all that different from 1999 when Futurama first premiered. Most of our technological progress in the
past two decades has been in the realm of computers, rather than jetpacks and flying
cars. However, we have had one major change to the
skies of our cities, and that’s the development of quadcopter drones. In recent years, technology surrounding unmanned
aerial vehicles has progressed by leaps and bounds, leading to widespread availability
of cheap quadcopter drones for pretty much anyone who wants one. Believe it or not, Futurama kind of called
this one. Floating camera drones appear all throughout
Futurama in lieu of human camera operators. However, no one in the Futurama-verse figured
out that drones can be used to make deliveries. It’s a good thing, too, or else the Planet
Express crew might be out of a job. In the episode “The Lesser of Two Evils,”
Fry, Leela, and Bender visit Past-o-Rama, a theme park that is supposed to recreate
late 20th/early 21st century New York. It’s not exactly accurate. The only clearly predictive element of scenery
is the marquee at the theater, which advertises “Star Wars 9 — Yoda’s Bar Mitzvah.” When “The Lesser of Two Evils” first aired,
the newest Star Wars film to come out was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,
and given how poorly received that film was, the thought that we’d eventually get an Episode
IX was far from certain. This isn’t the only time that one of Futurama’s
joke movies ended up actually getting made. In the episode “A Fishful of Dollars,” Fry
meets the head of Pamela Anderson, who tells him that she starred in “Baywatch: The Movie.” “Hello Fry. Remember me from Baywatch the movie?” “Uhh….” “It was the first movie to be shot entirely
in slow-motion.” 18 years later, a theatrical Baywatch film
did hit theaters, with Anderson providing a cameo. In the world of Futurama, robots like Bender
are powered by alcohol. Out of all the wacky elements from Futurama’s
setting that might actually come to pass, there’s no way that we’re going to actually
get machines that run on beer, will we? We present to you the newest innovation in
automotive fuel: beer. Created by New Zealand-based brewery DB Export,
Brewtroleum is an ethanol fuel made from the yeast and grain waste products left over by
the brewing process. Okay, so it’s not actually beer, but finding
leftover bits of biomass from other industries and processing those waste products into ethanol
fuel could be the future of biofuels. It’s frequently less work, and according to
some reports, growing crops explicitly for use as biofuels could contribute to food shortages. So if you want the full Futurama experience
of sharing a beer with one of your robot friends, it turns out that finding the fuel is easy. The hard part is finding a robot that runs
on diesel. You could always try the BigDog robot that
was developed by Boston Dynamics back in 2005, which does have a gas-powered engine. Just don’t make the mistake of sharing a beer
with your flesh-and-blood dog, too. Even though Futurama takes place in the 31st
century, most of the prominent celebrities in that world are the same ones we have today. However, in most cases, all that’s left of
them is their heads, which are kept alive in jars full of liquid. We might not have cracked the science of preserving
heads in jars yet in our century, but through new advances in computer-generated imagery,
we are fast approaching a world where celebrities never die. Ever since the debut of the infamous Tupac
“hologram,” the genie has been out of the bottle in terms of using technology to virtually
resurrect the dead. In Star Wars: Rogue One, motion capture and
CGI meant that the late Peter Cushing could reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin, and
a digitally de-aged Carrie Fisher could make a cameo as Leia. After Paul Walker’s unexpected death during
the production of Furious 7, a mixture of visual effects techniques recreated his likeness
for the last few scenes he was unavailable to film. An especially controversial recent example
is the virtual casting of James Dean in the film Finding Jack. Say what you want about preserving a head
in a jar — at least in that case the dead celebrity can voice an opinion. Futurama wasn’t the first work of science
fiction to posit using computers to create immersive simulated experiences. Novels like Neuromancer and films like Brainstorm
told stories about virtual reality decades earlier. However, Futurama seems to be the first work
of fiction to predict how quickly this technology would be used to recreate and gamify totally
mundane experiences. Futurama first presented its take on VR in
the episode “The Series Has Landed.” When the Planet Express crew visits an amusement
park on the moon to deliver a package, they swing by a video arcade to play some games. First, we see someone playing Skeeball. Then, we see someone playing Virtual Skeeball. And finally, we see Amy playing Virtual Virtual
Skeeball, wearing a VR headset and just sitting in a chair. A couple decades later, a pair of games shockingly
similar to Virtual Virtual Skeeball come along in the form of Job Simulator and its sequel,
Vacation Simulator. These comedic games use the magic of Oculus
Rift technology to create immersive simulations of completely mundane situations. “Hello human, welcome to an accurate simulation
of office worker.” These sorts of tongue-in-cheek games obviously
aren’t the only thing that virtual reality is being used for, but they do speak to a
larger cultural trend that Futurama predicted — no technology, no matter how awe-inspiring,
can keep blowing our minds forever. Eventually, everything becomes a punchline. Professor Farnsworth has created a lot of
iconic inventions over the years, such as the Coolometer, the What-If Machine, and the
Fing-Longer. Perhaps his most memorable is the Smell-O-Scope,
which allows its users to smell objects at an astronomical scale. As Farnsworth puts it: “That’s my prize-winning smell-o-scope. If a dog craps anywhere in the universe, you
can bet I won’t be out of the loop.” As silly as this device may be, it’s not too
far off from a real-world invention known as the Nasal Ranger. Unfortunately, the Nasal Ranger can’t smell
objects at long ranges — if you aren’t in the same space as a given odor, with actual
bits of it entering your nose, there’s no way to smell it. However, this “field olfactometer” can be
used by a trained operator to quantify just how strong a smell really is. The Nasal Ranger allows its user to inhale
ambient air filtered to varying degrees, as determined by an adjustable dial. By changing the tolerance of the filters,
an operator can discover just how much a stench needs to be diluted before it is no longer
offensive. According to a segment of Modern Marvels all
about the Nasal Ranger, any scent that can still be detected when one part of it is diluted
with 15 parts clean air is “a nuisance.” As cool as the Nasal Ranger is, we’re a little
disappointed that its creators opted to measure stinkiness with dilution ratios, instead of
the Smell-O-Scope’s far more scientifically exact “Funkometer.” In “I Dated a Robot,” Fry discovers a service
that sells robotic companions with the personalities and appearances of celebrities. But shortly after Fry purchases one based
on Lucy Liu, circa 2003, he learns a terrible truth. This company is programming its robots by
kidnapping real celebrity heads and forcefully scanning their brains. In the end, Fry rescues the real Lucy Liu
and the other kidnapped celebrity heads. Finally, he destroys his unlawfully acquired
Liu-bot, in keeping with actual Lucy Liu’s wishes. Though realistic robots are still a ways off,
we’re getting closer every year. One company recently released a version of
a doll with a customizable robotic head capable of speech and limited movement. As a joke, comedian Whitney Cummings purchased
one customized to look like herself, and incorporated the robot into a stand-up special. Perhaps predictably, shortly thereafter the
company Realbotix reported a deluge of requests from customers for Whitney Cummings robots. However, Realbotix rejected these requests,
since they didn’t own Cummings’ likeness. Another form of entertainment this episode
unintentionally predicts is deepfake adult entertainment. The latest trend on many adult streaming sites
are videos that have been edited with facial replacement technology to impose celebrities’
faces onto the bodies of adult actors without the consent of the given celebrities. When the crew goes to watch “All My Circuits:
The Movie” in the episode “Raging Bender,” we see that movies have changed a bit since
the 21st century. As robot businessman Calculon is finishing
some paperwork, he receives a phone call alerting him that a fight scene has broken out at the
special effects warehouse. An announcer asks the audience to choose what
happens next: “If you want Calculon to race to the special
effects battle, press 1. If you want Calculon to doublecheck his paperwork,
press 2.” The audience selects “2,” and Calculon spends
the next few minutes sitting at his desk, flipping through papers. The promise of interactive films has been
on the frontier of cinema for decades. The first interactive movie was the 1967 Czech
film Kinoautomat, but surprisingly few films have followed in Kinoautomat’s tracks. Since the premiere of “Raging Bender,” much
of the hype around interactive films has been realized in narrative-driven video games like
Her Story, The Stanley Parable, or the work of Telltale Games. Black Mirror recently experimented with the
potential of streaming services to create interactive fiction with its mind-bending
special “Bandersnatch.” It was, like many interactive movies, praised
for its novelty, but criticized for not having much depth beyond its high concept. One instance of Futurama’s uncanny prescience
came in an episode that ended up predicting not a technological trend, but a news story. In “The Lesser of Two Evils,” Leela, Fry,
and Bender find themselves at the Miss Universe pageant. As the crew is watching the show, one of Leela’s
exes, Zapp Brannigan, is presenting the award. When Zapp notices Leela as he opens the envelope,
he calls out her name in surprise. However, the pageant staff misinterprets this
as Zapp announcing Leela as the winner, so they drag her on stage and give her flowers
and a crown. Moments later, Zapp corrects the error, and
Leela is stripped of her crown and flowers to be given to the actual winner. In 2015, the actual Miss Universe pageant
had a mix-up of its own. Moments after Miss Colombia was crowned Miss
Universe, comedian Steve Harvey, who was in charge of presenting the winner, realized
that he had misread the piece of paper he was given and accidentally named the wrong
winner. When he started to explain, the audience thought
he was kidding around at first, but he clarified that this was no joke. The actual winner was Miss Philippines. It was a fiasco worthy of an animated sitcom,
but given that this was happening in the real world, everyone involved found it a whole
lot less funny. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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1 thought on “Times Futurama Freakishly Predicted The Future

  1. Besides the Simpsons, which other shows did a pretty good job predicting the future?

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