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As The Aesthetics of Technology change, our vision of the future does, too. Raygun Gothic gave way to Crystal Spires and Togas, in turn supplanted by Used Future and Cyberpunk (and then all kinds of Punk Punk). At the time of this writing, the most common style for the future is a mix of all of the foregoing, plus... well, the iPod.
Right now, being cutting-edge is all about plain black and white (maybe pastel colours if you're lucky), translucent plastic, smoothed edges, screens that slide and flip out, touch screens, unobtrusive buttons, minimalist advertising and displays, lights that come out of nowhere and catchy little chimes when the devices start up. And of course, it's all small and convenient. For current evidence, look no further than the success of the iPod range and the iMac style it was based on, its imitators and other things that have adopted the style, such as pretty much the entire range of the latest game consoles.
Everything Is Online, and physical data storage either consists of an equivalent of a USB thumbdrive or doesn't exist at all, considering that computers are so small and compact you can carry them anywhere and transfer data wirelessly. Interfaces are designed to be soothing, easy to use and colourful, and if intelligent they'll probably be annoyingly helpful.
Of course, like every other "futuristic" visual style used in previous decades, this trope will probably be considered Zeerust after a while.
Anime & Manga
- Zero from the first Patlabor movie has some of this look about him. Which is quite impressive, considering Yutaka Izubuchi designed him in the late '80s.
- The eponymous robot from Heroman.
Films -- Animation
- EVE in WALL-E is basically a floating sentient iPod space probe that appears to be made mostly of curves, folds up neatly, and is packed with numerous features. Makes sense, since her character design was done by Jonathan Ive, who designed... wait for it... the iPod.
- Despicable Me uses this to contrast Gru's classic Mad Scientist style villainy with the upstart, next-gen villain, Vector. Gru's base looks like something out of a James Bond film, Vector's looks like if Steve Jobs had designed an iFortress.
Films -- Live-Action
- The 2009 Star Trek reboot has a Nokia system built into a vintage Cool Car. The new Enterprise itself is a mix of stylistic throwbacks but the general design seems a lot smoother than remembered. It helps that the plain white and minimalism of the old series adapts fairly well.
- Nokia was enlisted to help design the communicators as well.
- It's probably worth noting that the Apple.com splash screen when the second-gen aluminium iMac was released had a frame from that movie on the iMac's screen.
- In many ways the closest resemblance to anything from the original Star Trek franchise was the look of the ship in Star Trek the Motion Picture, whose pastels and self-illumination now look ahead of their time.
- Ironically, the pop art bright colors in the Original Series make more sense as it prevents cabin fever among the crew.
- At the end of Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, we very briefly see the NCC-1701-A Enterprise's bridge, which is just the STTMP bridge set painted completely white with black touchscreens, anticipating the iPod style in 1986. However, the design of the bridge would be significantly changed in Star Trek V the Final Frontier.
- The Starship Heart of Gold and Marvin the Paranoid Android in the film adaptation of The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy.
- The films artbook actually almost outlines this trope word for word. It also refers to how the designers wanted the titular guide to look like the previous generations iPod to the Heart of Gold's current gen model.
- In the second Cube, instead of something out of hell with dark shadows, visible circuit boards, spinning doorlatches and rumbling elevators, the environment of the new tesseract cube is almost user-friendly with all white surfaces and touch-to-open panels.
- The film I Robot pulled this off in a Twenty Minutes Into the Future setting. The latest line of robots are mostly plain, slightly transparent white, with visible blue and red lights, and very advanced (suspiciously so...). Even some of the other technology has a similar aesthetic; a security monitoring system consists of a thin strip of blue light.
- The shiny areas of Minority Report qualify.
- The Work Pods and the interior of the Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1968. This inspired the design of the iPod, hence the name. ("I'm sorry Dave, I can't play that...")
- Samsung has attempted using 2001's tablet-like devices as Prior Art to Apple's iPad in a patent struggle.
- The Island
- Star Wars -- this aesthetic style is very common, depending on the planet or area. High class has this aesthetics, low class has to settle for Used Future. Straightest example is the insides of buildings at Kamino, the rainy planet with the extensive cloning facilities, probably to make the place look extra clean and hospital-like.
- Kaminoan interiors surely look like this trope, but it's subverted: the walls of Kamino's cities are actually covered by beautiful art... that's only visible in UV spectrum (and only Kaminoans have UV vision).
- Leia's ship that gets captured at the beginning of A New Hope.
- Tron, a film that takes place inside of a computer, uses this aesthetic, partly because of the limited CG technology of the time, but mostly because everything is supposed to look sleek and virtual. The video game sequel, Tron 2.0, modernizes it slightly. The film sequel, Tron: Legacy, is actually an interesting subversion -- when you consider that the OS that everyone uses was made by a hacker, it makes sense that all the computer use a Command Line Interface, making for something of a Linux future.
- The control room for the Arena in The Hunger Games adaptation has an Apple-like aesthetic.
- In the Time Scout series, the tech is mostly normal. The incredibly expensive technology used by the time scouts is basically a battered tin/plastic case. Their satchels are regular battered leather satchels. In other words, averted.
- The Chee in Animorphs are like this under their holograms-sleek ivory and steel androids that vaguely resemble two legged dogs. The Pemalite ship that powers them has a similiar look.
- The TARDIS in Doctor Who can be thought of as a version of this, in its original 1960s incarnation. The original set designer, Peter Brachacki, gave it a sterile white feel covered in a regular geometric pattern of circles with hints of neoclassical architecture to make it look "timeless", rather than making it deliberately futuristic. Due to the low budget the control console in the middle of the room was covered with conventional buttons, dials, levers and switches (Brachacki's original concept called for controls moulded specifically to the pilot's hands), but the sterile white roundel-covered walls became iconic and continue to inform the design of the current TARDIS sets nearly 50 years on. Amusingly, attempts by subsequent less visionary designers to make the TARDIS look deliberately futuristic (especially with the console design in the 1980s, which looked like a giant BBC Micro) dated at alarming speed.
- That original circular design on the walls is a hugely-enlarged photo of a pill packet!
- Inverted on the DVD cover of the 3rd season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will had an iPod in 1992?
- Star Trek the Next Generation used iPad-like devices back in 1987. The goal was to save on the prop budget by using replaceable painted glass "touch screens" that could be updated to suit the plot, rather than designing a new machine with buttons and dials every time one was needed.
- However, in ST:TNG and subsequent Star Trek shows, we frequently see characters' desks with PADDs scattered around on top of them as if they were sheets of paper, instead of each crewmember having one PADD that they carry with them to do their work on.
- Despite ICarly being something of a rip-off of the 'iPod Generation', the actual tech they used is completely opposite. The "Pear" Pods are literally shaped like pears, they're very colourful, and their laptops avert the typical white Macbook colour scheme. The Pear "Pad" is a massively exaggerated version of the iPad that's about as big as most common LCD computer monitors.
- Andromeda computers are rather like this.
- The interiors of Moonbase Alpha on Space1999, and the Alphans' Rudi Gernreich-designed uniforms (particularly during the first season, when they were more unisex).
- The spaceship appearing in the music video for Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream".
- The lesbian robots in Bjork's "All Is Full of Love" video.
- One of the aesthetics in Genius: The Transgression is called "Pod People." The corebook mentions an editorial cartoon in a Genius-run magazine supposedly depicting the standard Pod People Death Ray: its description sounds like an iPod with its controls replaced by a single button labeled "KILL."
- The Tau Empire in Warhammer 40000 combine this with Crystal Spires and Togas.
- Traveller fits this to a T with illustrations of computers looking almost exactly like twenty-first century ones. Justifiable in that after you have miniaturized past a certain level user friendliness, fashion and aesthetics will become a premium. Maybe you can someday put several terrabytes into a datadisk the size of a dime but a human still needs to interface with it comfortably, so it is hard to picture computers designed to communicate directly with a human instead of just another computer being smaller then a palmtop without being inconvenient. Wristwatch-sized computers, "datacloths" which seem to be flexible paper-thin screens, and perhaps myriads of other arrangements are available. However one of the most popular arrangements in Traveller from pictures and discriptions seems to be something that looks rather like an Amazon Kindle.
- Eclipse Phase has this, because any object not physically implanted or worn has to be usable by everything from ordinary humans to uplifted squid. As a result, everything is palm-sized, made of smooth cream-coloured plastic, lacks corners or sharp edges, and more than likely doesn't even have buttons, since you can operate most things mentally.
- Portal: Aperture Science product design borrows heavily from Apple, but it ends there. The game is said to be concurrent with the latter half of the Half Life series, and we all know what that's like.
- In fact, one of the turrets from Portal was used to represent a Macintosh computer in a "Steam for Mac" ad, with a Team Fortress 2 Sentry representing the PC.
- The city in Mirror's Edge is like living in an iPod.
- The entire city of Esthar in Final Fantasy VIII looks like an iMac: everything has a sleek, rounded design and is built in translucent jewel colors, primarily sky blue, bright pink, and green.
- The Gamecube game P.N. 03 takes place mostly in a colony that employs the Mac design philosophy.
- The shinier locales in Mass Effect, like Illium or the Citadel, tend towards smooth white walls and blue Holographic Terminals. Both of the Normandy ships also have a sleek, minimalist aesthetic in their interior.
- Terran ships and stations in the X Universe are an example of this in sharp contrast to both other races and Argon (human Lost Colony) ships which are instead gray, blocky and have more exposed machinery.
- The Empire of the Rising Sun in Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3.
- Aeon technology in Supreme Commander is like this, in contrast to the utilitarian UEF look or the Cyberpunk Cybrans.
- Putt-Putt Travels Through Time predicted the future would take place on Floating Continents, with teleportation being possible, having food makers for all living creatures, libraries where you could print your own stories, museums where calculators are ancient mathematics artifacts, and there is no such thing as money.
- The Parasites from Gratuitous Space Battles. Their ships consist entirely of white metal hulls with brightly colored, transparent accents, and sleek weapons.
- Winslow in Questionable Content is basically a very large, self-aware iPod with arms, legs and a video-screen "face", supposedly made by Apple. His PC and Linux-based counterparts have somewhat more physical faces that can change expression.
- In A Mad Tea Party, 200 years in the future, there are ipad-like things for breaking into cars and checking medical files on the internet.
- Domain Tnemrot Tempest has a computer that looks and acts like an iPad. This is explained in the notes as most tech in the future being touch screen.
- Ilivais X follows this design, with cities being futuristic bubbles held above the land, and the Humongous Mecha typically being very sleek and advanced. The Avespias are the only units to even have any kind face, as the Ilivais prototypes have curved wedges with a sensor web, and the Espadas are piloted from within a shoulder-mounted sphere.
- Lampshaded in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where everything is chrome. They even have guys who drive around in vans spraypainting everything that's not already chrome.
- Most design aesthetic today leans toward this. Generally, most people like their technology to be sleek, clean, and minimalist. Tesla's Model S, which is due for production in mid-2012 is designed around the popular iPod sentiment; it even has pulsing LEDs to indicate charging state and a 17" touchscreen console explicitly based on the iPhone's interface.
- Bombardier Movia metro trains. Movia 346 model looks most like an iPod Classic from the outside, down to the combination of stainless steel and white panelling, and the inside does not lag far behind.
- The version for Singapore's upcoming Downtown Line looks even sleeker, with the ridged metal paneling on the sides gone in preference for a smooth glossy white one. The headlights themselves have been streamlined into mere slits on the front.
- Mercedes-Benz Citaro series of urban buses. You can also have one in red. Or both.
- Strand Craft yachts. Not white, but they will make one in white if you have the big bucks. And she comes with her own supercar.
- Skagen Watches. Simplicity and understatement pushed to the extreme, at least as much as the outer design is concerned.
- Sudbrock furniture. Besides clean, light and airy looks, it's also adaptable to the room shape and many potential uses.
- Benelli Argo Comfortech semi-automatic rifle is the iPod Classic of hunting: futuristic appearance, but innocuous enough to hide the fact it incorporates all technologies that could help to cancel recoil and steady the gun for accurate shooting, down to the exact composition of the rubber covering.
- The Wii itself seems to be going for this kind of aesthetic.
- The Nintendo DS series seem to be going for this look in its revisions.
- Also compare the iPad, essentially an iPod touch with a screen that's twice as big in each direction but which may in fact be thinner. Or, as one critic wrote, a more powerful iPod Touch that can be used by people without the eyesight of an Air Force pilot.
- Deliberately averted by Microsoft with their design philosophy called "Metro" that was first used in the user interface for the Zune HD and later fully fleshed out in Windows Phone 7 which eschews glossy, rounded icons for decidedly flat, square tiles and heavy typography, along with off-centered alignments and text that runs off the screen in order to aid in navigation through contextual clues to reduce the amount of excess UI elements. It is about as un-Apple as they could get while still being visually distinctive and functional - which was the goal.
- And now they are in the process of implementing the look across their entire product line ranging from the Xbox 360 Dashboard, to the next release of Windows.
- Funnily enough, it was so Un-Apple that Apple seemed to finally take notice everyone was copying them and decided to sue everyone... except Microsoft.
- Microsoft played it straight with their view of 2020.
- Many of the exhibits at the Sony Wonder Tech Lab in Manhattan, New York are designed this way.
- This is a common design for the new wave of trendy self-serve frozen yogurt shops that have been sweeping the US in the last few years.
- Subverted by Consumer Reports' recommended stopgap fix for the Apple iPhone 4's "death grip" problem. Put duct tape on the case - Used Future iPhone, anyone?
- The "Ceramic White" dashboard trim for the Chevy Volt. The "Dark" alternative is only available if you order one of the leather upholstery options ($1000).
- The Logitech Solar Keyboard K750. The front is paneled in glossy black plastic, with low-profile chictlet keys, while the back is a huge piece of smooth white plastic. The edges are rounded and the whole keyboard is just a third of an inch thick - or about two pieces of cardboard stacked together. It is in fact just a wee bit thicker than an IKEA mousepad.
- The "A Day Made of Glass" commercial by Corning. 5 minutes of life in a world where nearly everything is either translucent or reflective, which makes it more like Everything Is Windows Aero in the Future.
- An early example was the Ford Sierra, when it first came out in 1982. It was the first of the Fords to sport the bulbous "aero look" and was so unique at the time, it was dubbed the "Salesman's Spaceship".
- The Westfield chain of gigantic shopping malls, in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, to the point that rather than standing out for their design, the Apple stores in them completely blend in to their waves-of-curved-sheet-glass aesthetic.
- Discovery thinks this trope here. Its a three parter about 2057, guess when this was made.