Here’s What Movies and TV Shows of the Past Thought the Homes of the Future Would Look Like

published Aug 10, 2021
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Credit: Ana Hard

Whoever came up with the phrase “life imitates art” was definitely talking about how homes on the big screen affect the interior design taste of those watching. (Don’t tell me you’re not itching to live in a home that could belong in a Nancy Meyers movie, or tempted to sprinkle in seasonal touches, à la “Home Alone.”)

While movies and TV shows have served up contemporary design inspiration, they’ve also given a glimpse into homes of the future — well, at least tried to. So many programs from the last century have tried to forecast what today’s home would look like. Now, in 2021, it’s easy to see which ones didn’t quite get a clear look into the future, but it’s still fun to see their theories. And hey, give it another few decades, and who knows!

Ready to go back to yesterday and into tomorrow? Here’s a breakdown on how television shows and movies predicted the homes of the future.

Next-level newspaper retrieval

Once upon a time, it was customary to start the day with the newspaper and a piping hot cup of coffee. In fact, newspapers were so ubiquitous that the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie “Smart House” incorporated them into the well-appointed, futuristic titular home. At the beginning of the movie, the house ejects a super-long hose with a claw on the end, which retrieves the newspaper every morning. Once the paper is retrieved, the hose retracts all the way back to the house, camouflaging itself behind a window.

While “Smart House” takes place in the late ’90s, it depicts some pie-in-the-sky inventions that they thought (or, at least, hoped) would be common in the future. Unfortunately, the newspaper contraption never came into fruition, perhaps because physical newspapers aren’t on every front step anymore — in fact, newspaper circulation has plummeted to less than half of what it was when “Smart House” came out. Make no mistake, this gadget sounds awesome. But, why up your paper consumption when you can catch up on the news through your smartphone?

Virtual and robotic assistants

The 2008 animated film “Wall-E” has EVE in its 2805 universe. “I, Robot,” which came out in 2004, has machines doing every mundane task in the year 2035, right down to dropping off packages. While yesteryear’s movies successfully predicted the rise of electronic assistants, the IRL iterations are missing one key component: personality.

The 2013 movie “Her” depicts a near-future world, in which Theodore has some intimate chats and develops a deep connection with his operating system, Samantha. And who can forget all the sass Rosie the Robot served on the ’60s TV show “The Jetsons,” which was set in an unnamed future century? The world is already filled with Google Homes, Alexa Echos, and Siri, but it would be nice to give devices a personable system upgrade.

Stylish (and smart!) closets

After spending the past year and a half in sweatpants, it would be nice to have someone — or something — help you create the perfect outfit. Wouldn’t it be great to have a computer mix and match your pieces and analyze whether they work together? That’s exactly what Cher Horowitz has in “Clueless,” which came out in 1995. While this film takes place in ’90s Los Angeles, this futuristic closet gave viewers hope for an easier outfit-making process of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there are no signs that you’ll be turning to your closet for fashion advice anytime soon. There are plenty of apps that help you style and track your outfits, but a closet that doubles as a personal stylist? In the iconic words of Horowitz, as if!

High-tech hair dryer

Speaking of getting ready, the 1982 film “Blade Runner” upgraded the beauty game with a hair dryer that resembles a gigantic fish bowl. Not only does this fictional device (meant to be used in 2019, the year the film is set in) dry your hair in a snap, but it also stops grooming from turning into a small arm workout.

In reality, hair dryers don’t look very different than they did when the film was created (although Dyson’s Supersonic hair dryer showcases a new aesthetic). And, while there’s no need to change something that works, it’d be nice to have a hands-free way to get ready.

Holograms on speed dial

In the 1988 series Star Trek: The Next Generation, holodecks — a fictional device that projects holograms — is used to interact with characters, both real and fictional, in the 24th century. Not long after the show premiered, real-life video chatting started becoming more mainstream, thanks to the creation of webcams in the ’90s. And even though today’s platforms like FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype have enhanced video chatting further, there are still no signs of that holographic magic.

But, thanks to modern-day pop culture, the demand for holograms isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Marvel’s 2018 “Black Panther” — which takes place in present day — shows off some seriously updated technology. T’Challa and the rest of Wakanda have these teeny-tiny devices that project a holographic image of the person you’re on a call with in real time. (It’s almost like the hologram equivalent to FaceTime.)

The world is still waiting on holograms to become a thing IRL, but don’t be shocked if you see this special, high-tech feature all over homes in the decades to come.

Instant food makers

Why wait an hour for your takeout order to reach your doorstep when you can microwave your way to a Big Mac? Yesteryear’s movies and television shows predict that having a delicious meal is as easy as pressing a button. (And no, we’re not talking the button on your smartphone.)

For example, the Foodarackacycle on “The Jetsons” made it possible to get any meal of your choosing by simply touching a button. It’s like a vending machine for all cuisines. Or, if you’re craving something specific, 1985’s “Back to the Future” said that we’d be able to buy dehydrated pizza by the year 2015.

Sure, these predictions aren’t perfect, but it has become increasingly easier to whip up a delish dish. Whether you pull out the Instant Pot or order some Uber Eats, it turns out you are actually are a few clicks away from a good meal.

Flying car craze

For some movies, it’s not just the items in your home, but what’s lurking in your garage, too. Just think of the flying car in “The Jetsons” — yesteryear’s pop culture was fully convinced cars would fly.

But in reality, cars are not quite there. In 2021, energy-efficient hybrids are commonplace, and self-driving cars are getting better and better. Admittedly, there is a long way to go before automobiles levitate. However, if these movies teach anything, it might only be a matter of time.