By Diana Zelikman, Fueled
As a child, I was enamored with the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. When asked what I wanted to be as an adult, I frequently replied, “the Red Ranger.”
He was the fearless leader of the group who always knew what to do when faced with danger. I even took a few martial arts classes in preparation for my adventures saving the world. Unfortunately, I am not a Power Ranger, currently, but one quick trip to my local electronics store could get me a lot closer to my dream job. With the advent of wearable computing, science fiction doesn’t seem as fictional as it used to. There was something innately cool about the Power Rangers’ ability to communicate with each other by talking into their watches, and it’s no coincidence that smart watches are the coolest gear on the market. Google Glass’ market debut is not too far off in the future, and everything about the heads up display screams Star Trek or Star Wars. Even car makers are getting in on the action as researchers are developing in-windshield displays to be used in the cars of the not-too-distant future. But without Power Ranger watches, Marty McFly hover boards, or Space Odyssey space stations, we asked ourselves, would technology be where it is today?
USA Today tech columnist, Jon Swartz said it best, “Today’s technology lives in sci-fi films of yesterday.” In his 2013 piece, Swartz lists a number of technologies first imagined by Hollywood that we now have make practical use of including: voice command recognition (Siri), 360-degree hologram display (CNN), augmented reality (Robocop), prosthetic limbs (the Terminator), and more.
Art inspires technology by encouraging us to think beyond and outside of our reality. When technology imitates art, the results are beneficial to our greater good. The visualization or physical manifestation of an idea inspires innovation. Human achievements like flight and space travel were galvanized by Renaissance art and literature, and popular culture teases our hearts and minds with artistic representations of what could be.
Pixar designer, John Lasseter, once said, “art challenges technology” and it does so by setting expectations higher than what we’re able to realize. Ultimately, art and technology run forward on parallel tracks in race to innovation with one attempting to beat the other. With this framing and understanding, we find technology is always catching up but the beauty lies in that realization. As long as we imagine and commit our spirits to artistic endeavors, we will find technological inspiration not too far in the distance. Often, the only limiting factor that stands in the way of the impossible is nature, but attempting to build art-inspired technology helps us understand our limitations.
All in all, mankind is still in its infancy, trying to understand the universe it lives in, and with a planet facing serious climate challenges in the near future, it needs art to help imagine the technology that help us find a sustainable balance with nature.
. . . Who knows, in ten years, I could end up being a Power Ranger after all.