Samsung is supposed to be revealing their new smartwatch at this week’s Galaxy Gear event in Berlin on September 4th. Meanwhile, there are rumours doing the round regarding Apple’s next product – the iWatch – and Google has confirmed the purchase of smartwatch manufacturer WIMM Labs. And before all of these colour screened, fancy new gadgets, there was the Kickstarter success, the Pebble. It feels very much like the future is already here. I remember being a kid, watching sci-fi and spy films, and wishing I could invent these cool little gadgets. Actually, for a while there my main goal in life was to be Doc Emmet Brown – crazy white hair and all.
It seems that I’m not the only one who has been inspired by the tv and films I watched as kids. Haven’t you seen the wonderful ‘documentary’, How William Shatner Changed the World? If not, you should definitely check it out. It is a tongue-in-cheek look at the technological advances that were inspired by Star Trek. Remember when flip/clam-shell phones were all the rage? How did that come about? Well, it was called a ‘communicator’ and it first appeared on Star Trek: The Original Series.
I don’t think it is surprising that tech geeks and generally awesome inventors are sci-fi fans. So where did they get their inspiration for the new smartwatches?
The 1990 film directed by and starring Warren Beatty was based on the 1930’s comic strip of the same name. The original comic strip featured Detective Tracy talking into a 2-way radio watch, something that was also used in the film. Beatty as Tracy, in a yellow suit, talking into his watch has become something of an iconic image. While all it did was let him communicate with police headquarters, it was still one of the first incarnations of a ‘smartwatch’ idea.
2) Inspector Gadget
This was one of my favourite cartoons as a kid – I guess I’ve always been a geek – in love with gadgets and spies. Inspector Gadget, as his name suggests, had a multitude of tech gadgets that ranged from small and cute to the utterly ridiculous. Although, maybe being able to turn into my own personal helicopter could be useful? What was really cool was his entrepreneurial niece Penny and her awesome smartwatch. While Gadget was in the front lines, the real superhero was Penny.
3) Get Smart
The comedy genius of Don Adams as inept spy Maxwell Smart, has captivated audiences since 1965. While the most famous gadget used in the show was the ‘shoe phone’, it was not the only ordinary item to have extraordinary uses. Over 50 ordinary objects are used throughout the series’ life to conceal telephones, including a watch. Sometimes I wonder why it was the watch idea that took off and not having computers in our shoes!
4) Knight Rider
“Kind of a sci-fi thing, with the soul of a western,” says creator Glen A. Larson. Yes, sadly Whedon wasn’t the first to blend these two genres together with the awesome Firefly. David Hasslehoff, as Michael Knight, and his wondrous hair shine in this 80’s gem. Knight is able to talk to his car’s AI through the use of his very own smartwatch. Again, this is much like the Dick Tracy incarnation – as it is primarily used as a communication device. But it does connect up to the AI, paving the way for the idea of the watch itself being its own computer.
5) Men in Black
This sci-fi blockbuster is filled to the brim with cool tech. As it rightly should do – there are, after all, aliens among us. Agent K is the one with the power and the best tech. He wears a very stylish watch with the potential for many powers. We at least know that it can switch on the neuralyzer – but what else can it do? We’ll never know.
This film features one of the most outrageous smartwatches of all: watches that can stop time. This family-friendly feature, directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation alumni, Jonathan Frakes, and starring the very cute Jesse Bradford, was not a great film. However, it was fun to watch the action driven by a fancy watch gizmo. Generally, when we think of the ability to control or travel through time, we tend to think of large ‘time machines’ of the H.G. Wells kind. This film opened up new ideas of portable time devices. I’m on board with that!
7) Spy Kids
Why do so many family-friendly features enjoy using smartwatch props? After their parents are kidnapped, Carmen and Juni Cortez discover that their parents aren’t so boring after all – they are really spies. They find a number of cool toys to help them save their parents, including a pair of smartwatches. These babies can do practically everything – or at least everything we are expecting in the smartwatches that are about to be hitting the marketplace – they can make phone calls, have the Internet, access to satellites, and television.
I’m not Torchwood’s biggest fan – nor am I a huge fan of Dr. Who. But I am a die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. How is this relevant, you may ask? Well, when I found out that James Marsters (aka Spike in Buffy) was going to be in Torchwood, I sat down and watched the whole lot. Perhaps that shows that I’m a tad obsessive about such things, but never mind that right now. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) has a very cool wristwatch-type device… that is a teleporter and time travelling gadget!
In my opinion, (the first incarnation of…) Futurama is a far superior show to The Simpsons. I love this show and often re-watch it. Sorry to bang on about great, strong, female role models – but Leela is great. She’s a mutant badass – a pilot with only one eye. Take that everyone who ever told her she couldn’t accomplish anything! Depth perception be damned! Not only is Leela a spaceship captain, she also has her very own smartwatch. What does it do? Good question. It has feels very similar to a Star Trek tricorder in the sense that it seems to do anything and everything – in other words, whatever the writers needed to have happen to keep the episode moving along.
10) Back to the Future Part II
Doc arrives back in 1985 in an even more outlandish outfit than before and whisks Marty off to the future – ‘Something’s got to be done about your kids!’ In the future, Doc exposes Marty to a world full of cool new tech gadgets, including Mr. Fusion, self-fitting and self-drying clothing, self-lacing sneakers, instant make-up glasses, hoverboards, fingerprint lock technology (something else that has also become a reality), hydration machine, tv-screen windows, 3D-holograms, precise weather predictions, and a… normal watch. Ok, so this one didn’t really feature a smartwatch, but I’m sure it could have. Nevertheless, please inventors, can you make the future of this film a reality? Please? You have two years in which to do it! Bring on 2015!