Sixty years ago, a television cartoon beamed into U.S. living rooms, bringing with it a promise of a blissful future where all day-to-day drudgery was solved with the push of a button. While “The Jetsons” only lasted a single season, it had a profound impact on children of the Space Age. And, according to Smithsonian magazine, still stands as the most important piece of 20th century futurism and continues to impact how we think and talk about the future.
While we might not yet have our personal jetpacks, our flat screen TVs, Zoom meetings and smart homes are proof positive that George, Jane, Judy and Elroy (even Rosey) would be right at home in our world.
Here are 10 things “The Jetsons” got right about our tech-enabled lives.
1. Flying cars
George Jetson commutes to work in a flying car that folds down to the size of an attaché case.
Personal flying cars may not yet be available to the everyday commuter, but commercial eVTOL vehicles (electric vertical takeoff and landing) are in development, and could be in service as intra-city electric air taxis in just a few years. Nearly every major aerospace airframe manufacturer is developing eVTOL vehicles and commercial airlines are placing conditional orders for hundreds of eVOL vehicles.
Vertiports, the vertical airports where travelers will board electric air taxies are already in Singapore, Paris and London, with construction coming to Miami and Los Angeles.
Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Reinvent the Sky solution is helping startups and manufacturers model eVTOLs and push the boundaries of technological innovation.
2. Vertical cities
The Jetsons reside in Orbit City, where homes and businesses are raised high above the ground on adjustable columns.
Today, urban planners are facing the challenges of building sustainable and resilient infrastructure, modeling towers using data to address challenges such as climate change, rapid urbanization and population growth in order to improve their citizens’ quality of life.
Experts weigh in: How sustainable cities can thrive in a changing world
3. Smart bathrooms
Touchless technology for faucets, toilets, soap dispensers and hand dryers are already here, but how about anti-microbial technology baked into bathroom tiles and countertops? These advances have been used by hospitals but have become more popular in residences since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bathroom technology can also be used to conserve water and control lighting and thermostats to create spa-like experiences as well as to save energy. And there is more to come: the global smart bathroom market is expected to have strong growth in the next few years.
Simulation tools allow for testing and design improvement as products that help homeowners feel good about environmentally sound choices, while enhancing sanitation and improving relaxation are brought to market.
4. Robot assistance
The Jetsons’ household tasks are performed by the tart-tongued housekeeper, Rosie the Robot. Rosie’s direct descendent is the Roomba by iRobot, the vacuum cleaner robot that can be programmed and controlled by Alexa or Google Assistant for hands-free cleaning.
Robots are a regular presence in our daily lives. Rosie is the namesake behind a research robot that has four-fingered hands, an omnidirectional mobile base and a wide variety of sensors, designed to take on a variety of chores. Indian startup Zimplistic creates roti-making kitchen robots that help home cooks save 100,000 hours per year. And Leka, a smart robotic toy, was created to help children on the autism spectrum engage with their surroundings. Its creators used Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform to model eye tracking and emotional and behavioral responses through digital twin technology.
5. Smart homes and appliances
In the Jetsons household, most chores are addressed with the flip of a switch. Today, smart homes with internet technology are controlled by voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smartphone apps activate smart thermostats that know when to raise and lower the temperature, turn on the lights, ring doorbells and secure locks. Smart refrigerators, with touchscreen interfaces and internal cameras, can alert homeowners running low on supplies and even allow for making ice from smartphones. In the batroom, the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet from Kohler offers a heated seat, Bluetooth speakers, ambient colored lights and Amazon Alexa integration, so you can ask the toilet about the weather, if that’s the way you want to start your day. The Toto Flotation Tub simulates a weightless, zero-gravity experience while you’re in the bath.
6. Video meetings
Video calls were a science fiction staple by the time the Jetsons came around, and the show features a variety of videophones, hung on walls or strapped to wrists. Who among us can’t picture George’s boss at Spacely Sprockets shouting at him through a video screen? Of course, those bulky machines are the ancient ancestors of the Zoom meetings and Facetime chats that have become a part of daily life for so many of us.
7. 3D printed food
When preparing dinner for her family, Jane Jetson just pushes a few buttons on her Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle, and dinner is ready in a snap. While today’s families don’t yet have access to such sophisticated equipment, some restaurants are exploring the possibilities of 3D printers in the kitchen, particularly in molecular kitchens and upscale bakeries. Food Ink, a restaurant specializing in 3D printing, opened in London in 2016, where guests were treated to a nine-course meal, with dishes made from extruded pizza dough, hummus, mushy peas, chocolate mousse and goat cheese.
8. Jet packs
Did you know there is a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks? That’s how deep the yearning for Elroy Jetson’s personal flight technology runs. While personal jetpacks tend to be expensive and difficult to use, the sci-fi dream is alive and well. Over a decade ago, Martin Aircraft Company used SOLIDWORKS design and simulation tools to develop the first jetpack created for the mass market. More recently, Sam Rogers from Gravity Industries, developer of a turbo-powered jet suit, credited Dassault Systèmes for powering his passion for the design process.
9. Flat screen televisons
The Jetsons was born in the age of bulky black-and-white televisions, so the notion of a screen that was flush with the wall, as seen in the very first episode, was a flight of fancy. Today, our ubiquitous flat screen TVs, laptop and smartphone screens and endless streaming options, would make any 1960s futurist ask, will wonders ever cease?
10. Dog treadmills
When family pet Astro needed to go for a walk, George Jetson couldn’t just take him around the block. Instead, Astro was placed on a doggie treadmill, a perfect solution (until the appearance of a cat lead to some predictable mayhem). Today, there are any number of dog treadmills available for indoor exercise, especially for overweight dogs or elder dogs who need a short, safe walk to improve mobility.
One more thing The Jetsons got right — people will always be fascinated by the promise of technology, and what will be possible in the distant future.
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Feature image: Circa 1962: Cartoon family the Jetsons flying in a space car in a space age city in a still from the Hanna-Barbera animated television show, ‘The Jetsons.’ (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)