Technology changes at a breakneck pace, but we can get a sneak preview of the future using the magical time portal that is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. So what are today's tech giants cooking up for the next generation?
Judging from the following patents, the answer is "a bunch of wacky bullshit bound to make us look less like RoboCop and more like that ghastly Steve Urkel robot from Family Matters."
#4. Sony Dreams of Smart Wigs
Tech companies are really getting into the "wearable computing" trend lately, what with Samsung's smartwatch and Google Glass. But the brain trust at Sony is blazing into tomorrow with their scheme to design smart wigs for elderly gadget aficionados.
"Comes in Kirk or Uhura."
According to the patent, the wig vibrates on your scalp every time you get an email, like some bootleg Spidey sense. But that's not all -- this toupee of the future might also have a built-in camera and laser pointer!
So what exactly is Sony going for here? It's hard to say, since this is just a patent and not a marketing brochure, but we kind of suspect that they made it specifically for Donald Trump, so that he can know at a moment's notice when someone is shit-talking him on Twitter.
#3. Google Wants You to "Heart" Objects in Real Life
Speaking of Google Glass, Google has filed a patent that adds some Kinect-like functions to their fancy nerd specs. Their filing states that they want to allow people using Glass to be able to use hand gestures to interact with the real world.
One suggestion is the ability to "like" something you see while walking around, like a piece of art (if you're a tourist) or a comely stranger (if you're a creep). It's not a horrible idea, but the methodology is excruciatingly goofy. To "like" something, Google suggests using your hands to form a heart shape around it.
"We actually wanted something similar to +1ing something on Google+, but the Catholics sued."
So if you thought those dreadful assholes barking loudly into their Bluetooth headsets on the bus were annoying, just wait until you see a group of convulsing commuters feverishly performing Skidamarink-a-dink-a-dink just to post a photo of a pretty sunset to Instagram. And speaking of Google ...
#2. Google Wants You to Play Charades to Drive a Car
In recent automotive history, cars have been operated with hands on the wheels, feet on the pedals, and a single unfriendly digit flung out the window. But Google's other big science fiction project happens to be their self-driving car, which allows the motorist of the future to liberate both of their middle fingers.
Which means just so many more options for when you're stuck in the middle lane.
But it's that last part that seems to have caught Google's attention, because they've filed a patent for replacing all the knobs and buttons in your car with gestures. Some of these motions are intuitive, like swiping to roll your windows up or down. Others, like miming a twisting motion to adjust the radio dial, are so useless that they're baffling.
But portions of this patent are especially ominous: "For instance, the predetermined gestures may include swiping, tapping, pointing, grasping, pinching, or waving gestures." This reads like an organized list of panicked motions you'd make as you fly off a cliff because you and your stupid car were too good for buttons. There's even foreboding art of some poor soul interpretive dancing to avoid careening into the ultra-minimalist 18-wheeler in front of him.
In the future, we all evolve into Fisher-Price Little People.
#1. Motorola Proposes a Monstrous Smart Tattoo
How do you take smartphones and smartwatches and smartglasses to the next level of smart madness? Behold Motorola's "smart tattoo." (It's actually an adhesive patch, but they're the ones who called it a tattoo, not us.) Like other smart devices, it alerts you of incoming notifications and even has a microphone so you can take calls. Unlike other smart devices, it's fairly disturbing.
John Scrivener/iStock/Getty Images
We can't even begin to imagine the amount of butt-dialing the inevitable tramp stamp version will cause.
First off, it goes over your throat so the microphone can pick up sounds straight out of your larynx. (That's important because mouths are apparently an outdated technology now.) Even weirder, the patent also calls for the possibility of the tattoo recognizing galvanic skin response (i.e., tension, sweatiness), thus making it useful as a lie detector.
But Motorola doesn't think you'll go around popping this thing on other people's necks, branding your nemeses like so many delicious longhorns. No, this thing would know when YOU are lying.
Like when you tell others, "I don't regret this purchase," for example.
Finally, Motorola notes that the tattoo "may" have a rechargeable battery so that you and your dystopian horror mark can enjoy sleepless nights with a wire running to your throat.