When I was a kid, the year 2020 seemed so far away. But now that “the future” is almost here, it’s fun to look back at what we thought 2020 might look like. Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications company and a lightning rod for controversy in the U.S., had its own idea about what the year 2020 was going to entail. And let’s just say that it’s super awkward.
The video, which was posted to Huawei’s official YouTube channel in 2010, was pretty optimistic about things like solar power, self-driving cars, and gigantic, semi-transparent screens that would surround us.
The video opens by placing viewers at the 2020 Olympic Games, where we see someone winning in a swim competition. The winner gets out of the pool and activates his armband, which appears to be a projector that can display a semi-transparent screen in midair. The screens look like they were inspired by the 2002 movie Minority Report, though it’s never explained in the Huawei video how any of this works.
The video also includes solar power collection stations on the side of the highway, something that’s much more in line with our current technological reality.
The video then cuts to a woman driving along in an autopiloted car who answers her videophone-enabled windshield. Autopilot concepts are obviously controversial here in the year 2019 thanks to companies like Tesla, though the video isn’t that absurd. This is where the clip really falls apart from a story-telling perspective though. The swimmer dude just won a gold medal at the Olympics and his “sweety” wasn’t at the games, nor was she even watching on TV.
“Wahhh! You got the medal! Congratulations,” she says.
And while she is presumably not in control of the vehicle, it does seem a little weird that she has so many screens blocking her view.
The video then introduces us to a new character who’s playing chess on a very wide device. He gets a call from his doctor and they make awkward small talk before the character scans his own eye.
“So doc, am I still a superman?” the guy asks.
Our random injured guy gets a call from his friend, the swimmer at the Olympics and there are congratulations all around.
The swimmer then pushes an area on his projection that appears cartoonish. It’s not clear if his video is appearing in an artificial environment like Second Life or if they just tried to animate a crowd scene and failed.
The video then zips around to another corner of the world where some very stylish old people are sitting outside. The old man is reading a newspaper-like device and his eye movements are being tracked. It appears that the eyeball-tracking is allowing him to move content on the screen without even touching it.
Pretty soon, he does touch the screen to pick up a call from his son. The father ask “what’s up?” The mother then asks, “did you finish the game?” before the son holds up his gold medal. The gold medal that he won at the swimming... game.
I don’t know what this swimmer did to make his loved ones forget that he was going to the Olympics, but it must’ve been bad. Like... really bad.
“Let’s go inside to see a clearer picture of this,” the old man says.
They had all that technology at their disposal and didn’t see their son win the Olympic gold medal until after he called. Naturally.
You can watch the entire video on YouTube if you really have the urge. The acting is really special.
Tech companies love to make videos like this, and I've looked at quite a few in the past, including AT&T’s “Connections” from 1993, GTE’s “Classroom of the Future” from 1988, and Pacific Bell’s 1991 concept video. Technology companies like Huawei love to get people excited about the world of tomorrow, and more often than not these things can be pretty amusing in hindsight.
Even when a concept video is accurate in spirit, there’s always something that gives it away as retro. Take the 1967 video from Philco-Ford about online shopping in the year 1999, as just one example. Yes, we have online shopping today. But it looks different than this. And that’s probably a good thing.
What will the futuristic world of 2020 look like? We’ll be able to answer that question in just a few months. And sadly it doesn’t look like we’re going to have any jetpacks or flying cars, let alone wrist-bound projection screens.