For its part, the U. S. military eventually gave up on jet packs as a practical mode of battlefield transportation, in part because flyers could only carry enough fuel to stay aloft for less than half a minute [source: Rocketman. com]. But we are getting really close to the jet packs we were promised. New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft has approval for manned test flights of its P12 Jetpacks.
And although the company has sent unmanned packs 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in the air, these manned flights will only be 20 feet (6 meters) over land and 25 feet (7. 6 meters) over water [source: Oremus]. And guess what — the company is taking orders. Law enforcement and government agencies can order one for an expected mid-2014 release, and private jet pack enthusiasts (and who isn’t) can get on a waiting list for a possible 2015 purchase [source: Martin Jet Pack]. ROBOT MAIDS The most obvious answer to a complaint about the lack of robot maids is of course, ‘Hey, buddy, go buy a Roomba.
Because while they don’t really resemble George Jetson’s robotic maid Rosie, modern bots do carry out a host of floor vacuuming, tile scrubbing and pool cleaning chores. Of course, the vision of the computerized maid goes beyond mere automated dust busting. What we’ve been waiting for is a true robotic domestic servant capable of safely navigating a human living environment to carry out everything from cleaning the toilet to cooking pancakes. But in order to actually move through our kitchens and interact with us, robots will need to be capable of social learning.
A truly social bot will need to evaluate environmental stimuli with a discriminating eye. In short, a true robotic maid would need to be autonomous. Scientists from Cornell University are on the case, and are slowly creating robots that might be able anticipate human needs. They predict that in the next few years we might see a robot maid who can do some specific tasks. So far, they’ve already developed a ‘robo-maid’ who can open a fridge and pour you a beer [source: Carroll].
A far greater help than, say, folding laundry. ATOMIC POWERED HOMES In the 1950s, when the U. S. government first approved the creation of nuclear plants for generating electricity, some Americans fantasized about a future in which small, personal nuclear reactors would be commonplace gadgets. In 1955, Robert E. Ferry, general manager of the Institute of Boiler and Radiator Manufacturers, gave a speech in which he predicted that individual homes would be heated and cooled by small reactors within three to six years.
Although that hasn’t happened nearly 60 years later, there was some movement to create ‘mini-reactors’ that might power small communities or even homes. As recently as 2008, company Hyperion Power Generation (now Gen4 Energy) was claiming that it had developed nuclear power plans ‘smaller than a garden shed’ that could power 20,000 homes and would be on sale by 2013 [source: Vidal and Rosen]. However, 2013 hit, and still no progress on this nuclear sunset.