Adventure Time as Inspiration for Future Engineers

It's a truck.  I think.
My sister-in-law.  She’s holding a truck. I think.

My sister-in-law is 8 years old, and loves Adventure Time.  We spend a fair amount of time hanging out, which means I’ve seen a fair amount of Adventure Time, too.  I spend a lot of time thinking about future technologies: companion software bots, augmented reality, enveloping story universes.  A few months ago it struck me that Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball are really effective at teaching the fundamentals of what life will be like in the future, assuming AR and bot trends continue like they have.  I’m sure it’s inadvertent, but by mashing up the media from their youth with current technology and idioms, the creators have produced really compelling content that predicts the future.

Augmented Reality, specifically additive AR where you wear glasses that display images laid over the real world, is looking like the next innovation frontier after the cell phone.  (There isn’t much innovation going on in the cell phone space that isn’t incrementally smaller, lighter, faster, or is really a cloud software innovation.)  You have a set of glasses wirelessly connected to the internet that have cameras and some intelligent software that detects objects or interprets landscape positions and can then project images into your eyeballs appropriately.  Mix that with some cloud based software bot friends, and you get a view that might look something like this:


Speaking of software bot friends, Adventure Time does a great job of showing what a personal bot might be like.  Finn’s a human, the relatable entity in the story, but his best friend Jake is a talking dog who can stretch to nearly any shape (easy in AR) and knows all kinds of esoteric information about the strange world Finn finds himself in.  Like, I don’t know, he has access to the Internet or something.  The entire world is magical and gamified in a cell shaded way.  You need exercise, why doesn’t Jake (your cloud based software buddy) take you on an adventure to the world of the Tree People (walk to the park), where you can show off your awesome adventuring skills (climb the monkeybars).


By defining an aesthetic for what cool things look like and what fun experiences are, the creators of these shows are guiding what our future will actually look like.  The kids watching these shows who grow up to design and build technology will be more likely to make this AR future, because it speaks to what originally inspired them, and the rest will fundamentally understand it, because the inspiration was part of their experience.