George Jetson speaks with Jane, his wife, and his boy Elroy over the videophone. Various versions of videophones were a constant presence in the animated sitcom. (Source: Smithsonianmag.com)
Let’s just admit it: We’ve all wondered where our jet packs are. By now, weren’t we supposed to be flying from place to place wearing sweet silver jumpsuits and helmets with lightning bolts on the side?
I thought so too. Back in the post-war ‘50s and space-age ‘60s, the future had boundless possibility, as infinitely moldable as plastic. Science, industry, and good old American innovation were bound to deliver us from the drudgery of our labor-intensive, earthbound existence. We learned of cars that drove themselves on highways in the sky. We read about helpful domestic robots (one book described a robot maid’s main benefit: no crying!). Best of all, we were entranced by the videophone, a regularly featured gadget on TV’s The Jetsons, an animated primetime sitcom originally airing on ABC in 1962-63.
In those days, videophones were “a strange and beautiful technology,” writes Matt Novack on Smithsonianmag.com. In the 1962 reality of typewriters and rotary-dial telephones, devices allowing you to speak face-to-face with someone thousands of miles away seemed perfectly suited to 2062, the year depicted in The Jetsons. Few at that time realized how rapidly developing technology would fast-forward the future for videophones and other Jetsonian wonders.
So like kids trapped in the back of a cosmic station wagon, it’s natural for us to now ponder the future we were supposed to have and wonder, “Are we there yet?”
Well, I’d say we’re pretty close.
I’m still holding out for that jet pack – some dreams die hard – but self-driving cars are virtually around the corner. House-cleaning (and non-crying!) robots are making their way into our homes too. But it turns out The Jetsons was most prescient in its imaginings of video communications. Videophones were ubiquitous in the show; it’s how people communicated. That’s happening today, and on an ever-widening scale.
It seems trite to say video changes how people collaborate but it’s true. As I work with Polycom customers to tell their stories, I hear from people in video-enabled enterprises who say they conduct virtually all their calls over video. And some companies, such as global industrial real estate giant Prologis, have developed a “pure culture of collaboration.” (In the case of Prologis, video use has doubled in the past year across its 90 offices.) Some employees collaborate face-to-face from video-equipped conference rooms, and others use their mobile tablets so they can, from practically anywhere in the world, help decide on potential investments worth millions of dollars. You can watch the Prologis video, along with those spotlighting other customers, at Polycom Customer Stories.
Prologis may not have soaring offices in Orbit City – at least not yet – but when people wonder whether we’ll ever get the future we were told was coming, they should spend some time listening to Polycom customers. They’ll find that future – at least when it comes to connecting people with video – is already here.