Science fiction is where the future happens first, and that puts futurist Syd Mead at least two steps ahead of the rest of us. The 78-year-old conceptual artist may be best known for designing the flying-cop-car-patrolled Los Angeles streetscapes in Blade Runner, but he also dreamed up the original light cycles in Tron, the Marine-transport starship in Aliens, and visions of a class-stratified, off-Earth world for Neill Blomkamp's highly anticipated March 2013 feature Elysium. Here, Mead makes predictions for what we might one day see in film, in real life, or both.
Pointing to new electroactive polymers that contract powerfully and predictably when exposed to a charge, Mead foresees an era of lightweight human exoskeletons. Such strap-on limb supports could strengthen soldiers and help the elderly and the paralyzed. "These new materials are better than hydraulics or electric motors," he explains, "because they have a directional axis to pull and push, much like muscles do. So they're very efficient, and more like a sheath than a bulky cylinder. That's going to change the world."
"Cars have already become semi-sentient," says Mead, citing the recent introduction of consumer-level "self-parking" systems. Soon cars will be able to communicate with one another, which could end slowdowns caused by erratic human judgment. "It's all just geometry," he says. "To have 1,000 drivers trundling down the freeway, making their own second-by-second decisions, is awful." There is, he notes, also a potential downside: "Cars will be able to notify your insurance company immediately if you've hit something." Even the smallest bump could drive up your rates.
Printable Replacement Organs
3-D printers, which lay down consecutive layers of urethane resin to create detailed objects, have become crucial prototyping tools for Detroit automobile designers and Hollywood special-effects houses alike. Mead says that soon these printers will be loaded with live human cells rather than sprayable resins. The micro-precise nozzles could turn out custom replacement body parts built using our own stem cells. "You'll be able to make extremely intricate closed-volume solids at will," he says. "No seams. That is amazing. And it reduces economies of scale to zero. You can make one item at a time, as demand requires."
Swappable Car Bodies
Riffing off universal chassis systems such as GM's drive-by-wire "skateboard" concept, Mead foresees a day when we'll be attaching new car-body modules onto an underlying, independently powered frame as quickly and easily as we change shirts. "I first rendered this concept over 40 years ago," he says (he began his career at Ford Motor Company's Advanced Styling Studio). "Once it gets going, in about 10 years, it's going to mark a huge change. In some ways, it's like what happened in the 1910s and 1920s, before cars became fully mass-produced. You'd buy a Deusenberg chassis, then have a custom coach builder put the body on it."
Covert Bank Warfare
Given the ever-increasing prevalence of cashless purchases, Mead says we are headed for a world of covert bank-account warfare directed by government bureaucrats. "You're standing naked to the electronic-surveillance world with every financial transaction," he says. Whether through radio-frequency ID chips, phone transactions, or mobile credit-card processing and Web transactions, financial information is becoming more easily intercepted, tracked, and correlated to personal information, such as national identity, bank-account information and employment history. "All somebody far above you in the hierarchy has to do is hit 'delete.' Instantaneously you've become a non-person, economically. That's scary to me."
All we need is one arm to terminate as a cannon and we have Metroid's PowerSuit.
With all due respect to Mr. Mead most of this is already in the works. Blade Runner was far more visionary for its time.
Is Metroid's gun attached to his arm or to his suit?
P.S.as if i haven't had these kind of ideas before
armored exoskeleton suit designed to protect the wearer from harm and to allow total domination of the field of battle
Biggest thing is self driving cars. The transportation system in the USA is painfully outdated. I't almost as embarrassing as the health care system.
The gun's connected to her suit, not her arm. :)
As mentioned above, none of these are particularly new ideas...
The last two are here already. The interchangeable car bodies with standard chassis was the brainchild of William Durant and the government can find out almost as much about you as Amazon can -- but Amazon can't put your lights out -- with today's political-party-controlled courts and justice system, they literally can. Oh wait, forgot about the review panels for Medicare -- I mean really put your lights out!
the exoskeleton reminds me of the robot in that one movie "lost in space"(the new one)
@JediMindset - Danger Will Robinson! Danger! I actually enjoyed that movie.. but sadly, I think I was the only one that did. And yes, it does look him. lol
What about StarShip troopers. NOT the movie. If any of you have read the Robert A. Heinlein book, published in 59 I think it may be the first sci-fi use of such a device (exoskeleton).
that book is WAY ahead of its time. Amazing book. nothing like the movie. Men in exoskeleton battle suits jumping around like men with mega grass hopper legs. lobbing tiny nukes from their back pack launchers.
the stuff i had in mind for exoskeleton suits would be modular part that allow for unique customization and wield a verity of weapons and be capable of flying with portable micro plasma jets for an very lengthy amount of time and would out maneuver almost any military weapon system of to date like those still aging 20th century tanks that most military nations are still using
got any coll ideas for this comment feel free to reply
I read about everything but the universal chassis a while ago, and I thought the universal chassis was already being used in modern cars. Good synopsis nonetheless.
Five of those ideas aleady exist in prototype stage, and are widely known about.
The only one that doesn't exist is 'covert bank ops', and that's because it's a BS b-movie plot. Specifically it's the BS B-movie plot to The Net, staring Sandra Bolloc way back in (I think?) 1995 when the internet was shiney and new (and thus scary to stupid people) and everyone thought she coudl act.
What a waste of a perfectly good article.
No mention of nanotechnology, gene therapy/life extension, artificial intelligence, humanoid robots, flying "cars". All of these things will have a huge impact on our future lives.
from jcinaz: "No mention of nanotechnology, gene therapy/life extension, artificial intelligence, humanoid robots, flying "cars". All of these things will have a huge impact on our future lives."
SO TRUE! They did mention artificial limbs but that really isn't the same. I'm with you on the nanotechnology though.
Everyone needs to watch Minority Report again...better yet, re-read everything Philip K. Dick ever wrote.
Please, my exo wil be equipped to the teeth if I ned it for combat. Think a fifty caliber and a pair of Hydra rocket pods
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.