Spike Jonze's new film may be science fiction, but we're practically there.
If aliens were to suddenly descend upon Earth, they might notice most humans have their own glowing box. Each morning, they stand on the train with their necks craned peering at the box, on their way to an office where they sit and stare at a similar box, and then they retire home to watch their glowing box a little more. The extra terrestrials probably would think, "I don't know what that glowing thingy is, but, man, it's special to them."
Such is the idea behind Spike Jonze’s new film, Her, which opens nationwide today. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a fumbling bachelor in a not-so-distant future L.A., who finds himself growing closer to his artificially intelligent operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Without giving too much away, Theodore falls headphone-over-heels in love with his OS, even introducing the non-corporeal "her" to his friends. This is a science fiction film, but it all feels eerily probable.
Here's a list of technology we've already invented that may seem outlandish today, but in a few years, it might be as ordinary as our iPhone reliance. And in twenty years, we could be in love with it.
Siri, the beta-Her, is only getting smarter (Just don't ask her if she likes the Jonze film.) The research team that came up with her is releasing Bright—a personal assistant tool that will track your habits and will try to anticipate what you’ll do. Using cameras, gesture reading, facial cues, and touch analysis, Bright learns about you and acts accordingly. It's currently being used in high-risk environments, but will soon trickle down to the masses. Then we'll dump Siri for the girl who just gets us.
2. The Funktionide
A near sentient pillow that will cuddle with you. Utilizing artificial muscle technology, the Funktionide has sensors that react to temperature, color, and human touch. It moves around, "breathes", and caresses like a human or your favorite blubbery pet. If we are bringing our technology into bed, it might as well spoon us, too.
3. The Passenger Seat Girlfriend
A Japanese smartphone app, Car Friend SKD, introduced The Passenger Seat Girlfriend in 2013. The Passenger Seat Girlfriend is a GPS system that monitors your surroundings and vehicle to give you updates and make conversation with you on those lonely drives. Illustrated like an anime character, she speaks in an ultra sweet, high-pitched voice. She'll even comment on weather and the geographical surroundings. Watch those placid "Turn left," prompts become an eager, watery-eyed "TURN LEFT!!!!"
4. Bluetooth Teledildonics
Smartphone controlled and Bluetooth enabled sex toys, teledildonics are the future of fucking machines. With products and networks like Frixion, OhMiBod blueMotion, and Vibease on the market, you can screw someone remotely or control your own jerk session directly from your phone. True and literal phone sex – no humans or hands required.
5. Touch Tech
The Aireal and a similar device UltraHaptics, are tactile projects designed to give you the sensation of feeling objects in thin air. They work by blowing small rings of air and ultrasound vibrations at you to simulate touch, movement, and collision with objects you can see but can't actually feel. Sex with a hologram? Give it 20 years.
6. Autonomous Conversation Robots
Our fascination with robots begins in their humanoid qualities and ends with their inability to feel. That could all change with artificial intelligence. Kirobo, the robot at the center of a robot-human relations study on a Japanese H-2B rocket, is pretty damn cute. Programmed to talk, Kirobo is one of the first robots with autonomous conversation functions. Meaning, even his programmers have no idea what he'll say. When his programmer said, "Nice to meet you," Kirobo adorably replied, "I really wanted to meet you, too." Swoon.
Though we may feel the love and warmth of a Facebook "like," there is actually no physicality to the experience. Designers at MIT created a vest that inflates to hug you anytime anyone likes a Facebook post of yours. If you're not into the social aspect of the Like-a-Hug, similarly there's The Girlfriend Coat, which squeezes you from behind when you’re feeling lonely and the Hug Shirt ,which measures warmth and heartbeat to send hugs to you from friends.
NameTag is a new Google Glass facial recognition app that allows you to scan faces in a crowd and discover online identities of a person, like an online dating profile or Twitter account, without ever talking to them. We can know practical strangers without ever having to introduce ourselves.
9. Oculus Rift Masturbator
And finally, the robot specifically designed to have sex with you. We all already know about custom love dolls Real Dolls, but the Oculus Rift masturbator touches you back. Hooked into 3D goggles that play animated porn, the toy, similar to a fleshlight or RealTouch, simulates a hand job that's synced with what the model is doing in the film. A "Her" you can touch, feel, and lose yourself inside of.
Image via Flickr.