Talkie Toaster For Real?

Red Dwarf tech making its way towards reality.

4 April, 2014

We've always thought that Red Dwarf was pretty good at being prescient when it comes to technology and consumer trends - but even so, it was a nice surprise to see various tech news outlets recently reporting on something that could have been lifted directly from the show.

Talkie Toaster For Real?

Say hello to Brad, a prototype toaster who forms the centrepiece of Addicted Products, a design experiment conceived by Italian Simone Rebaudengo. As Wired magazine explain:

[Brad is] in constant contact with other connected toasters like him - and thus keenly aware of how much action they're getting. If he's not being used as much as his friends, Brad gets upset. He'll wiggle his little handle to get your attention, begging you to make some toast or at least to give him a reassuring pat on the side. Ignore him long enough, and he'll take a more drastic measure: pinging a network of potential owners to find a new home.

Sound familiar? Comparisons with our very own Talkie Toaster are obvious - and while it's unclear whether Rebaudengo was in any way directly inspired by the Red Dwarf, it's not the first time a concept from the series has gone on to see a strangely similar parallel in reality. Here are five of our favourites:

Artificial Reality

During Red Dwarf's middle era, virtual reality was a burgeoning technology in the UK - Craig Charles himself hosted a short-lived BBC2 game show, Cyberzone, based around the concept - but although people were briefly excited by it, it quickly died out when it became apparent that... well, it wasn't very good, not to put too fine a point on it. But the dream has still persisted that one day, fully-immersive and realistic virtual environments akin to the ones experienced in Red Dwarf might become a reality. The latest such prospect, the Oculus Rift, was recently bought out by Facebook - and heck, the headsets even look not a million miles away from the Series VI-era AR helmets. No word yet on a groinal attachment, however...

Talkie Toaster For Real?

Stasis

Suspended animation technology is a popular trope in science fiction, particularly whenever interstellar travel is involved - but we reckon Red Dwarf's got a pretty strong claim on being one of the foremost, what with basically the entire plot of the series hinging on it. In the real world, it's only in the last ten years that there have been strides made in completing successful tests of its potential medical application - but it's not entirely beyond comprehension that one day, slowing down vital functions might be a genuinely feasible method of extending life.

Holograms

The concept of bringing back the dead as computer generated, light-based life forms was arguably Red Dwarf's most out there concept - even more so than all that space travel. But it evidently struck a chord with some people, as evidenced at the 2012 Coachella music festival - when a CGI "hologram" of rapper Tupac Shakur was able to "perform" onstage, despite the small matter of having been deceased for fifteen years.

Talking Vending Machines

One of Red Dwarf's most enduring pieces of tech - appearing as early as the first series, right up to having the plots of entire episodes based around them in Series X - the idea of a vending machine that chats to the customer might seem impossible by current technological standards. In fact, vending machines have been talking - or, at least, pretending to talk - since 1970, when a company in Dallas, Texas demonstrated the "Venda Talker", a machine that would play a pre-recorded one-liner upon the deposit of a coin. More recently, a viral marketing campaign for Kenco Millicano coffee saw " Kenneth the Talking Vending Machine" installed in Soho Square. But in fact, Kenneth was just a clever bit of actor-based trickery - and he wasn't as cute as Dispenser 34, either.

Talkie Toaster For Real?

Holly

Here's one we already reported on back in March 2013 - and the scientists at Toshiba genuinely did cite Red Dwarf as an influence with their hypothetical "virtual personal assistant". In the Siri/Google Now era, it's becoming increasingly common for the technology inside your phone to act as a digital PA, bringing up information before you even knew you needed it (shades of Pree, there, as well) - and while we're some way off an artificially-generated floating head actually controlling the minutiae of your day-to-day life, it's not unreasonable to suggest that they might one day look like Holly...

Read more about Brad the "intelligent" toaster at the Interaction Awards website!

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