09/05/2012 13:14 BST | Updated 09/05/2012 13:26 BST

Tomorrow's World: Are These The Innovations Of The Future?

For those brought up in the era before on-demand TV and before even Channel 4 flickered into life, programmes such as Tomorrow's World offered an intriguing glimpse of an otherwise-unseen future packed full of useful technology and innovation.

The enthusiasm of presenters, including the great Raymond Baxter and Maggie Philbin, was often overshadowed by bearded inventors who looked as though they'd been held hostage in some dark rooms for a very long time but the programme had a charm and truly foresaw many everyday items that we now take for granted. Where would we be without ATMs, home computers, digital cameras, compact discs (they in turn superseded by new technologies), global positioning systems (GPS) and even the Channel Tunnel.

Of course, for every idea that came to fruition, many didn't see the light of day or are still being talked about and developed. We've come up with our own list of innovations that we'd like to see entering the world of the mass consumer in the years to come and some that may prove perhaps more controversial.

The flying car

Often seen as the way forward to solve the problems of increasingly clogged-up city roads, the idea of the flying car is something that refuses to disappear in spite of the impracticalities and inherent dangers of letting people loose in the skies. Harrison Ford (Blade Runner) and Bruce Willis (The Fifth Element) both offered glimpses of city life with such vehicles. Hmm, perhaps a good reason to keep our feet on the ground, after all. For those keen to get higher than the rest of us, here's one of the latest prototypes - the Terrafugia Transition flying car on display at the New York International Auto Show last month.

Traffic management systems

Failing the successful introduction of flying cars, traffic systems in cities clearly need a new solution for reasons of both environment and congestion. Already vehicle-sharing companies are gaining in popularity, networks incorporating cars with bikes are familiar in many European cities with London seeing a huge rise in two-wheeled transport thanks to the introduction of 'Boris Bikes'. Eco-friendly car and buses also populate the streets but the ability to keep traffic moving is still an issue and the creation of am active traffic management system that is 'aware' of changing situations and can act on them to keep traffic flowing is still some way off.

Personal robots

Long a staple of science fiction and comedy - Woody Allen's Sleepers a case in point - the idea of a personal servant that doesn't moan, doesn't need paying and will satisfy every whim is something that has never disappeared. In fact, things have got better with age as the Asimo robots demonstrate. Still a long way off mass production, these incredibly advanced automatons are almost childlike in their interactions. The latest models can now run faster, balance on uneven surfaces, hop on one foot, pour a drink and even almost "think" on their own. One for every home? Quite possibly, but let's hope they're not just making the daily cuppa.

Cure for cancer

Ok, so this is the 'Big One' and not your usual tech innovation, but along with HIV and other stubborn diseases or viruses, it's a disease that is still killing millions. Leading scientists and medics have often predicted time scales for cures, but to eradicate these illnesses in the same way that smallpox is now a distant memory is taking longer in spite of many 'advances' and innovations.

Forever young

One widely-held belief that people who enjoy going under the knife in the search for eternal youth is that they aren't fooling anybody, except perhaps themselves. But, that doesn't mean the quest to defeat ageing is some sort of false idolatry; the long-established and successful cosmetics industry is a clear sign of what people want. But aside from looking good, science is helping to combat the effects of ageing with developments such as artificial limbs with tactile sensations, retinal implants to help restore vision and a 'spinning heart' with no pulse or blood clots. How soon before parts can be mail ordered?


Anyone who's watched Star Trek ("Beam me up, Scotty") or Harry Potter (port keys) will have hoped that one day they will be to transport themselves from one place to materialise in another. Complete science fiction/wizardry or is there real potential? We think this is the longest shot in our list, but really want to believe it will happen.

Personalised medicos

The idea of self-treatment for medical purposes is nothing new but doctors are always on the lookout for innovations that can make their jobs easier and improve the health and welfare of their patients without the need for time-consuming trips to their GP or hospital. Miniature medical equipment is one such advance and it may not be long before we see tiny implants that can test, diagnose and even alert medics to potential illnesses or problems. There have been reports of researchers in the Netherlands who have created a pill that can be sent to a particular part of the body where the attached medicine is needed. That could be one HNS reform to attract universal approval.

Driverless transport

Another favourite amongst inventors and engineers, the mass-market driverless car is not as far away as you might think and could prove to be a vital innovation for the urban dweller. For example, General Motors has produced EN-V, the electrically-networked vehicle designed to support those in urban areas where space is limited and driving is often for short distances at low speed. Three bubble-shaped models - Jiao, Xiao and Miao - have been developed which can all be programmed via the HMI (they don't have steering wheels) to take you where you want or perhaps to drop the kids off at school and drive itself back home. What's not to like about that?