5 Futuristic Start-Ups conceived in the 1900s

Nov 2, 2012
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The imaginations of one artist c. 1900 prophecy the millennial lifestyle.

1.  mySpark Technologies

mySpark Technologies inspirationFrom the small class size and male-only student body you can tell the illustrator is clearly from the 1900s. By use of mechanical energy to initiate the electrical signals, the machine feeds knowledge and information via electrical wires despite the clear nuisance of electric shock and headaches from having to wear a helmet. This illustration predicts an internet age where information is accessed rapidly, freely, and digitally. While books aren’t thrown into a machine and digested, the manual process of copying books, films, and other sources of media makes up the core of popular educational/scholar websites like Wikipedia, JStor, and LexisNexis. A recent post on the Stanford Graduate School of Business Facebook page rallies teachers to face technology squarely in the eye and embrace the innovative ways of teaching and learning. Has tomorrow become today for educators? Yes, says the Huffington Post of the Canadian start-up, mySpark Technologies. Engineers in the start-up promote tablet use in the classroom using Android apps.

2. Grouper

Grouper inspirationThe cultural paradox depicted in this drawing just shows how our time spent in front of glowing screen has more to do with convenience than achieving a sense of intimacy in relationships. In 100 years mankind would invest more and more time apart and gain a renewed sense of entitlement in terms of personal time management. Family, friends, and courting potential partners are nearly secondary to the increasingly demanding and hot careers in our current jobs market. Hence, the creation of dating websites, over-paid matchmakers, and exhaustive memoirs on finding love in a digital age. Arguably, dating websites might have more to do with sexual encounters but that’s a topic for another day. Grouper’s CEO and founder used his own dating website to find his girlfriend. The dating service involves a wing-man approach and a lot of chutzpah.

3. Broad Group

Broad Group InspirationBuild a skyscraper in 90 days? Too easy! Waiting a century to finally do it? Less so. Urban planners face headaches when it comes to prolonged construction projects that prove disastrous for environmental reasons, and municipal officials willingly forgo high-cost designs for fear of draining public funds. This calls for an art-school dropout turned technology entrepreneur to construct a building in the fewest amount of days possible. Maybe Zhang Yue’s philosophy challenges ancient Egypt’s architects responsible for the 7th wonder of the world that required slave labor, excruciatingly heavy materials, and years not days of construction. The company launched in 1988 with only $3,000 of seed investments.

4. Color Labs

Color Labs InspirationIn the 1900s, art had a limited context. It was the Harlem renaissance.  It was post-mortem success and reaching an audience of critics not consumers. Online subscription services like Netflix, or movie retail stores like iTunes, ignite the consumer demand for instant, free or even illegal forms of entertainment that won’t slow down anytime soon. Given the blogosophere critique on the hit TV series like Girls and literal overnight celebrity status of musical artists, we now crown Hollywood the metonym of the digital entertainment industry. What could replace the magnates in Hollywood largely dictating distribution and access of our cultural goods? None other than Color Labs, rumored to have been acquired by Apple, that wants to remove the middle-man by transforming your iPhone into a desirable piece of equipment worthy of a film director. The strategy harnesses the power of social media and ‘going viral’ on the internet.

5. Prism Skylabs

Prism Skylabs inspiration

While we haven’t yet achieved world peace, truth is, we still won’t trust each other–  whether it’s between the government and the demos, or a parent and his/her child, surveillance remains a desirable approach to security systems. Prism Skylabs is first in in its kind, offering a cloud-based service for sharing security data across vendors. The start-up recently earned a generous $1.5 million in crow-funding from the likes of Yuri Milner, Eric Schmidt, CrunchFund, and more.

Check out all five of these futuristic artworks!