VTOLs, Robots and Borgs - Predicting the Future - Avenir Thinking

VTOLs, Robots, and Borgs, Oh My


4 years ago

As a species, humans have been spotty on predicting the future. We don’t have the sentient, lifelike robots The Blade Runner predicted for November 2019 (and Manhattan still mostly isn’t a maximum-security prison a la Escape From New York), but Back to the Future II was only off by a year on the Cubs winning the World Series (and hoverboards had a brief, fiery heyday in 2015). 

Fortunately, we’ve never let wildly inaccurate results stop us from pressing forward with more predictions and theories about what’s to come.

With that in mind, let’s take a look ahead at 2020 visions, big and small.

Flying Cars in 2020: Fact or Fantasy?

Back in 2017, at least a half-dozen companies promised us flying cars by 2020, including Toyota and Uber. Then, earlier this year, we wrote about self-flying helicopters and what that technology might mean for flying cars in the near and distant future. So how close are we really? Well, depending on who’s predicting, they are right around the corner or still more than a decade away. You have to stretch your image of what we’re even talking about if you want to discuss what might happen in the roaring 20s. Most prototypes are essentially pilotless drones that can carry passengers. Even these vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (aka VTOLs for short) can only operate for a few minutes before their batteries are dead. But that hasn’t stopped the developers of the Paramount Miami World Center from adding a take-off and landing pad for VTOLs, which at the very least makes it a great shooting location for all films set in the future (or in 2020 if you’re still a true believer).

Uber has updated its timeline to 2023 as the year its service becomes commercially available. Porsche and Boeing predict their VTOLs will be operational by 2025. When you’re a leader in your industry, you don’t let anything as trivial as non-existent technology slow you down. As for finding out more on the topic, take your choice of an article grounded in reality or a pie-in-the-sky video.


At the risk of becoming “that guy,” let’s take another look at the state of robots in retail stores. You may remember how excited we were back in March to report that the robots were coming. Then we were downright giddy when one of our friends in the field sent us a video of a “real live” robot in action.

So what’s the latest robonews? It’s literally a case of less is more. Thanks to Bossa Nova, the company who makes these lovely creatures, by slimming down the robot body, smaller retail outlets will be able to start using them to scan their inventory. The new, leaner bot will be suitable for just about any establishment larger than a convenience store. We’ll be stalking the aisles of Ralphs, Home Depot and Best Buy in hopes of a sighting. Free Avenir notebook to anyone who sends us visual proof of one roaming wild in San Diego. 

The Next Time You See Me I’ll Be a Cyborg

Since at least one person on the Avenir team is obsessed with the singularity (when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence), this is for them, and all those whose fantasy of being Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man) or Jaime Sommers (the Bionic Woman) is still a vivid memory. 

Enter the bionic sleeve, allowing us to use unfamiliar machinery and speeding up our reflexes to superhuman capacity or learn a new instrument. If successful, it could completely change the way we learn skills. Instead of reading a book or watching a video, we would put on a sleeve that temporarily turns us into a cyborg and teaches our muscles how to perform the task at hand.

While that technology might not yet be in stores … there are plenty of current wearables that are crazy impressive. We’re not just talking smart watches and video-recording eyewear either. Here are a couple of things that already exist: yoga pants that can alert you when your pose needs refining, athletic wear that absorbs heat from your skin and reflects it back as energy that is thought to encourage faster muscle recovery. Imagine what’s just around the corner.

Happy Thanksgiving

Finally, as tech lovers, we want to give thanks for all the ways 21st-century technology has enhanced our enjoyment of Thanksgiving and other family holidays. We almost never have to lie about how moist and delicious the turkey is now, thanks to meal-planning and recipe apps. Basically anyone can learn how to make a traditional bird with all the trimmings with just a few clicks nowadays. Family in faraway places? Thanks to Facetime, Skype and other video chat services, you can see your family and friends even if you can’t be with them. Also, let’s not forget one of our favorite peace-keeping technologies: TiVo (or other DVR technology). Rather than fighting over whether to watch the Macy’s parade or the football game, just set one (or both) to record. Thanks to our ultra-modern world, all that’s left to fight about is when you’re finally going to settle down and get married. 🦃

That’s all we have for this month. Hit reply and tell us what trends you’re most excited about for 2020. Or just send us your grandmother’s recipe for cornbread stuffing. We really just love hearing from you.