Flying cars and floating cities – these 8 radical designs predict our impending future

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

Speculation about the future is often gloomy, but on its 175th anniversary, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC presents a grand vision of how the world could radically change through a successful exhibition of technology, design and art. . Housed in the Art + Industries (AIB) building, the “Futures” show will occupy 32,000 square feet of space with a combination of actual projects currently underway, design proposals from the present and past, and premonitory artistic concepts. Rachel Goslin, director of the Smithsonian AIB, calls the show a “contemporary global exhibition of ideas.”

“I think it’s safe to say this is the only exhibit in history where you can play a video game with your eyes, talk to an emotional robot, visit a grocery store from the future, and do your laundry,” Goslin said.

Smithsonian is the largest network of museums, education and research centers in the world, and exhibition curator Ashley Molese points out that the AIB has presented many historical artifacts to the public for the first time, including the light bulb, the phone and the Apollo Space Rockets.

Now they hope to continue their legacy of innovation, she explains. “We have so much help these days to imagine what could go wrong in the future,” she said. “But we also need help imagining what might be going on.” Here are eight remarkable concepts and objects from the show.

An electric taxi takes off

“Back to the Future 2” predicted that we would have flying cars by 2015. “Blade Runner” predicted that we would have them by 2019. But it’s 2021 and we still haven’t seen any cars in our sky. (The “The Jetsons” bets we still have until the 2060s; “The Fifth Element”, the 2250s.) At “Futures” a new concept will debut – the Bell Nexus Air Taxi, designed by the manufacturer. Aerospace Bell Textron, is a self-flying hybrid car designed to take off and land vertically. While passengers still have to be patient before they can report a ride from above, that eternal vision of the future could finally arrive soon: Uber and Hyundai have teamed up and set their sights on 2023 for the first prototype.

A city floats on the water

City of Océanix Credit: Courtesy of CEANIX / BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group / Smithsonian

With the explosion of urban populations, sprawl could eventually shift from land to sea. This is the idea behind Bjarke Ingels’ ambitious concept for a floating city, which the Danish architect presented with the artist Olaffur Eliasson and the Oceanix company at the UN two years ago. The Bjake Ingels Group (BIG) has become famous for their eye-catching, durable and modern designs in Denmark and beyond, and are currently building Google’s new campus in London. But the idea of ​​”Oceanix City” is on a large scale. The proposed hexagonal and modular ocean metropolis plan claims to be fully adaptable to a city’s needs, while the infrastructure is designed to be sustainable and resilient to natural disasters.

A new way to start a family

(I) Baby Possible

(I) Baby Possible Credit: Courtesy of Ai Hasegawa / Smithsonian

Can science help same-sex couples have a baby that shares the DNA of both parents? With the advancement of stem cell research and technology, such as the CRISPR gene editing technique, it is only a matter of time and has already been achieved with mice in the laboratory. Artist and designer Ai Hasegawa envisioned such a future through the speculative design project “(Im) possible Baby”, created when Hasegawa was at MIT. Hasegawa worked with a couple who both want to be biological moms, using their DNA data from the 23andMe Home Genetic Testing Kit to together create mock images of their potential children. The project included a family photo album as well as a 30-minute documentary film released in Japan.

An ultra-fast mode of transport

Pegasus vehicle

Pegasus vehicle Credit: Courtesy of Virgin Hyperloop / Smithsonian

A working hyperloop in the United States has been teased for about a decade, and with Virgin completing its first human trial last November, the futuristic travel option finally seems within reach. A hyperloop – a vacuum tube for land travel that reaches flight speeds – has long been envisioned in science fiction, but was propelled by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar in 2012, with Virgin Group founder Richard Branson coming to the table in 2017. The Virgin Hyperloop Pegasus, which will be on display at “Futures,” is a high-speed pod designed to travel up to 670 miles per hour, intended to connect the big cities in minutes instead of hours.

One last eco-responsible home

Capsula Mundi

Capsula Mundi Credit: Courtesy of Vincenzo Monzino / Smithsonian

When you die, become a tree – this is what the Italian design team behind the “Capsula Mundi” concept come up with. Raoul Pretzel and Anna Citelli’s concept for a biodegradable egg-shaped urn topped with a new tree has been circulating on the Internet since their introduction in 2017. While it still hits the market four years later, the concept of eco-friendly urn has been exhibited around the world and will be a stopover at “Futures”.

A new source of drinking water

Water collector

Water collector Credit: Courtesy of Waha, Inc / Smithsonian

In Frank Herbert’s “Dune” franchise, the desert fremen create potable water by recycling all of their bodily fluids through their wetsuits. even in the most arid conditions. (In 2019, startup Waha tested its technology in California’s Mojave Desert.) The Water Harvester can produce enough water for two to three adults – a potentially life-saving device for the neighborhood facing extreme water stress – and Waha has plans to scale up to design a harvester with enough horsepower to hydrate an entire village, according to Berkeley News.

An AI agricultural rover

Mineral rover

Mineral rover Credit: Courtesy of X, the Moonshot Factory (a division of Google LLC) / Smithsonian

As the world’s population continues to soar, food security has become a more pressing issue, especially as climate change threatens our agricultural stability. It’s a critical area that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is exploring through X, its “Moonshot factory” dedicated to solving global problems through technology. X’s Mineral Rover prototype, publicly shown at “Futures,” is a small-car-sized four-wheeled autonomous rover that uses artificial intelligence to help farmers maximize crop yields and reduce crop yield. ecological impact, in particular thanks to the quantity of water and chemicals required. . The Mineral Rover can identify weeds and potential problems with the plants as well as assess fruit maturity, according to the Smithsonian.

A capital returns to the wild

ReWildAR summer visualization

ReWildAR summer visualization Credit: Courtesy of Tamiko Thiel / Smithsonian

What if Washington DC once again became a thriving wild ecosystem? This question is the basis of an AR project by artist Tamiko Thiel, who transformed one of the exhibition halls into an idyllic wildflower habitat. Thiel, who helped design the first commercial AI supercomputer 35 years ago, worked with horticulture experts at the Smithsonian to visualize a radically greener future that attendees can discover through an augmented reality overlay.

Futures contracts“opens on November 20, 2021 and will remain visible until July 6, 2022.

Top Image: The Bell Nexus Air Taxi


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