Posts Tagged 'round'

SkyMall Greatest Hits

A trove of products grasping at the image of the futuristic, SkyMall features a truly astounding selection of useless fetish objects that seek to fulfill the need for luxury… for the new. These kinds of goods should seem familiar, as they are what our society is build upon. For a more detailed run-through of consumerist tendencies and their origins, I recommend Stewart and Elizabeth Ewen’s Channels of Desire. But suffice to say that shiny products answering a need we never knew existed are a staple of American (read: global) life. Here, then are a few choice selections from a recent issue of the Mall, which I find best demonstrate the extremes of future-mongering in the consumer industries.

The adds speak to that sort of almost-but-not-quite future glimpsed in childhood toys or on the backs of cereal boxes. Obviously there is a strong emphasis on white and blue with smooth contours. It seems particularly fitting that the publication resides in the sky, only accessible from the already luxurious and high-tech experience of flying. Literally above the realm of every-day experience, the time spent reading SkyMall places them physically closer to the stars – the ubiquitous symbol for technological progress and social betterment – in a broken leftover from Cold-war era political bamboozling.

uv light wand


feng shui gadget


futuristic bowl machine


authentic tea brewer bullshit


wheel skates


just look at the little guy...

More future cars! Spotted in The New York Times last week, the “carbon-neutral” city of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates, has been infested with subterranean driverless cars. The city is apparently raised  23 feet off the ground to catch the desert breeze, and to make room for the local network of robot cars. Ostensibly little different than a subway, the very private personal transports took their design – it seems –  from well, every clean Utopian Sci Fi film ever made. Norman Foster, lead designer for Foster & Partners, who helmed the UAE’s new eco-mecca is supposedly a “lifelong tech buff who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller” – so that explains a few things.

Nicolai Ourorrsof from NYT explains:

But Mr. Foster’s most radical move was the way he dealt with one of the most vexing urban design challenges of the past century: what to do with the car. Not only did he close Masdar entirely to combustion-engine vehicles, he buried their replacement — his network of electric cars — underneath the city. Then, to further reinforce the purity of his vision, he located almost all of the heavy-duty service functions — a 54-acre photovoltaic field and incineration and water treatment plants — outside the city.

The result, Mr. Foster acknowledged, feels a bit like Disneyland. “Disneyland is attractive because all the service is below ground,” he said. “We do the same here — it is literally a walled city. Traditional cars are stopped at the edges.”

Driving from downtown Abu Dhabi, 20 miles away, you follow a narrow road past an oil refinery and through desolate patches of desert before reaching the blank concrete wall of Masdar and find the city looming overhead. (Mr. Foster plans to camouflage the periphery behind fountains and flora.) From there a road tunnels through the base to a garage just underneath the city’s edge.

Stepping out of this space into one of the “Personal Rapid Transit” stations brings to mind the sets designed by Harry Lange for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You are in a large, dark hall facing a row of white, pod-shaped cars lined up in rectangular glass bays. (The cars’ design was based on Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a compact urban vehicle, the D-45, which helps explain their softly contoured, timelessly futuristic silhouettes.) Daylight spills down a rough concrete wall behind them, hinting at the life above” [emphasis added].

The first 13 cars of a proposed fleet of hundreds were being tested the day I visited, but as soon as the system is up, within a few weeks, a user will be able to step into a car and choose a destination on an LCD screen. The car will then silently pull into traffic, seeming to drive itself. (There are no cables or rails.)

 the fleet in stationCheck the diagram and slideshow for more.

Field Report: Household Discovery

What the?

the subject.

A can opener, apparently. This sublimely ergonomic device was a recent gift from a friend, and it is easily the most futuristic thing in my kitchen drawer. Let’s pretend for moment that we hadn’t seen the instruction booklet that came with it (which, it totally is complicated enough to warrant having one). As watchful citizens, or pseudo archaeologists, or at least someone used to the long-standing history of the common can opener, we have to ask ourselves what this strange device is. At first glance, more in line with electric razors or luxury motorcycles, the can opener belies a clear inspiration from both Modern design and the sort of hi-tech sleekness pioneered by Science Fiction. Feel that history.

ventral view.

The Future of the DJ

Well I guess it maintains the physical link between DJ and music, but “All you need is your flash drive!” does encourage the spread of poor quality mp3’s. Still, more minimal touch screens. Designed by Greg Kaufman.

[FLYLYF via Holy warbles]

Future Orbs

Google Chrome. What is that icon supposed to be? While this image might provide one answer, a more solid one would be that its just some futuristic doodad. As the obvious vehicle of future chasing, the Internet often appears rough around the edges, especially in the old days or with heavy amounts of add-on features. Setting aside the question of technical jousting between browsers, I don’t think anyone will disagree that Chrome looks the most futuristic. The others are getting there, but this is what I’m talking about:

Note the curved corners of everything, especially the tabs and the sort of generally minimal dehumanizing going on (related question: is minimalism futuristic? Answer in the comments).  Put on your favorite Sci Fi movie, go look at new models of cars or read this post; everything is getting curved. It’s probably a stretch, but I could easily throw in something about how technology “rounds out” the corners of things.

But back to the logo. Besides being a sort of one-track signifier of the futuristic, the Google Chrome logo appears itself to be some sort of handheld device – something that seemed familiar enough to warrant digging around. The similarities aren’t really relevant in a copyright sense, but in both the logo and the following video a futuristic orb denotes a rich world of technology. And I suspect it’s from mass exposure to Sci Fi, but I look at the Chrome logo and assume its about this size, don’t you?

Besides being a hopelessly lame show reel (which incidentally reminds me of bad commercials from the 90’s and therefore is regressive despite the insistence on being futuristic), the whole thing reeks of generic attempts to signify the technological future for the predicted associations with wealth, utopian society and the general coolness that makes us love this kind of stuff. The dog looks like it was cranked out of the same factory as Asimo or the iRobots. Here are some more examples of shiny round things:

A thermal detonator from Star Wars.

All Spark from Transformers

The Allspark from Transformers…


…and a pokeball.

Honestly I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of them, because I vaguely recall dozens of movies where the heroes are rescuing/destroying some orb of power in the last few minutes. Post em’ if you got ’em.

Watch This and Tell Me the Future Hasn’t Already Arrived

Do you understand how this works? Does that matter?

Field Report: On the Streets

futuristic doorbell thing

Small future panel spotted on Wooster st.

svedka vodka robot ad

Svedka is apparently in the prescriptive future propaganda business as well as getting folks drunk.

A Curated Look at Pulp Covers

pulp cover jetpack

Why are these images appealing? They are most obviously amusing because of their antiquity, something that depends not necessarily on the subject matter but the style: pulp covers of jungle beasts and vampires are also awesome. But like those genres, these images of the futuristic are worth considering for their uniformity and adherence to a particular world. The aesthetics and characters seen here in THRILLS INCORPORATED are the same ones we’ve seen in recent movies and television.

pulp cover robot

Is this where it all began? Not really, Jules Vern, H. G. Wells and Mary Shelly should be as good a starting point as any. Science Fiction has emerged as a unique critique and social dialogue, diverging itself from fantasy in an issue thoroughly dissected by post-marxist hero writer Fredrick Jameson in Archaelogies of the Future. As I’ve previously written, there is a fundamental desire among us to approach the world seen in science fiction, if not, then why do we continue to build and shape our world after the ones seen here:

pulp cover rocket with silver robots

And now here’s Jameson going to town on the matter:

“…we confront something like a binary alteration between the reality principle of SF and the pleasure principle of fantasy. Perhaps in that sense Utopia does constitute a working synthesis of these two incommensurable: the supreme creativity or shaping impulse of fantasy marshaling the most recalcitrant raw material of all, in the state and the social order. So it is that as Science Fiction approaches the condition of Utopia… a peculiar fairy-tale topology begins to rise towards the surface like a network of veins.”

Archaelogies of the Future page 74.

Utopia here is described as the critical awareness of science fiction applied to the real world, inspired by fiction. If the Utopian will portrays an ideal world, what is that world based on? More often than not its less to do with an actual sense of social justice as pertaining to the the real world and more to do with wishful fantasy.

All images gather from around the Net.

iPad Future Round-Up


I’m going to try to bring more photo-documentation to Manifest Future, which means more snooping around for signs of the impending techno-future; but in the meantime I found it necessary to jump on the iPad bandwagon to briefly point out just how obnoxiously futuristic it is.

Above video snagged from Gizmodo’s January post about tablets in science fiction.

Xeni Jarden’s recent review in which she quotes the notorious Theo Gray on the iPad’s interactive book The Elements:

The Elements on iPad is not a game, not an app, not a TV show. It’s a book. But it’s Harry Potter’s book. This is the version you check out from the Hogwarts library. Everything in it is alive in some way.”

All in all, the iPad is unabashidly futuristic, in the same way that all of Apple’s products are – it just seems like as technology adances they (Apple) are more able to atain the high degree of futurist aesthetics that they seem to have always been striving for. Look at the smooth contours of the Pad’s case: there are no corners in the future.

The interface obviously has a kind of mass appeal, but the look of it has an awful lot in common with the kind of generic futurism seen in my post about Sci Fi software – which is is say that the actual going-ons of the thing are hidden behind a picture so sleek and sophisticated that people are meant to look past the act of hiding itself. Having played with one of the Pads this morning at the SoHo Apple store, I can verify that it really is just a big iPhone. The point of contention with people is that with its new capabilities it is threatening the jobs that are normally fullfilled by our big normal computers, and I for one am not looking forward to having my digital experience (which will soon be my total life experience) rendered through the cryptic stronghold of secret developers.


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