We are often amazed at the futuristic storylines and gadgets depicted in the sci-fi movies. Be it the Helicopter Hat of ‘Inspector Gadget’ or the Neuralyzer used by Agent K and J in ‘Men in Black’ Series; science fiction never ceases to excite us. Although these are purely fictitious art works and are developed with no intention of adding realism, you might be surprised to know that sometimes researchers and scientists take inspiration from these works to turn the imaginative ideas into something practical.
There are numerous technologies that are used in our daily lives which were once just a part of some movies like intelligent personal assistants in Star Trek or the biometric technology in Back to the Future Series. However, here we are going to enumerate some gadgets and science fiction concepts that are currently being worked upon and are on their way to reaching the masses in a complete commercialized form.
Actor Robert Downey Jr. Posing with Iron Man Armour (Image Courtesy: HLN)
From Iron Man to Aliens and from the animated series Mobile Suit Gundam to the highly popular game Crysis, powered exoskeletons have always been represented as a must-have gadget for fighting enemies. However, the technology is not truly fictional as we can see a lot of advancements by researchers across US, Europe, and Asia. Currently people are not only working on prototypes but certain companies have even launched the final product.
ReWalk Exoskeleton by Argo Medical Technologies (Image Courtesy: Inhabitat)
However, unlike the movies and animated artworks, these powered exoskeletons are used for military purposes for lifting heavy weights. Besides, many researchers have developed full body exoskeletons for patients suffering from paralysis and other medical conditions so as to help them through increased strength. For Example, the ‘Rewalk Device’ from Argo Medical Technologies is worth $150,000 detects the weight shift of the wearer and makes use of motors and knee joints to allow free movement.
2. Smart Wearables
Back to the Future Shoes worn by Marty (Image Courtesy: YouTube)
In ‘Back to the Future II’, Marty is seen wearing a self adjusting jacket which also dries itself. And how can we forget his power-lacing Nike Mags which had blinking lights and could tie themselves. Although one may haven’t even thought of such a thing at that time but today wearables have become quite a fad among the masses. From fitness tracking bracelets to baby monitoring crib sheets and bodysuits, we have come a long way.
Nike Auto-Lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 (Image Courtesy: Uncrate)
As far as the Nike Mags are concerned, Nike has actually designed self-lacing sneakers christened as HyperAdapt 1.0 for the general public. The shoes are packed with sensors that automatically adjust the fitting as per the size of the wearer. It also has two buttons for tightening and loosening the fitting. However, instead of rolling it out in retail stores, the brand has offered it through Draws and exclusive buying options on the online stores.
3. Invisibility Cloak
Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak (Image Courtesy: journeydownthescale.info)
The whole Harry Potter Series is full of magical props, chants, and activities. However, the invisibility cloak which Harry receives from Dumbledore as a Christmas present is one of the most unforgettable elements of the series. In the movie, various characters are seen using the invisibility cloak to make themselves disappear but can this actually happen? Well, it’s not exactly possible to have a cloak that makes things invisible but something similar has been actually developed.
Stealth-Wear Counter Surveillance Clothing by Adam Harvey
A designer named Adam Harvey has developed a range of stealth-wear. These clothes will not make you disappear but will surely protect you against modern surveillance involving thermal imaging and facial recognition. The items are made of silver-plated synthetic fibre that is highly flexible and thermally reflective. The cloth line consists of hijabs, burqas, and hoodies.
4. Driverless Cars
Johnny Cab in Total Recall (Image Courtesy: TheSurge.com)
In the movie Total Recall (1990), Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen riding in the Johnny Cab which was controlled by a robot. It received instructions to start the ride along with the address of the destination and would drive itself to the required location. Although the actual driverless cars do not really contain any robotic figure inside them, the technology is pretty much relatable.
As far as the reality is concerned, we are witnessing the use of driverless cars for commercial purposes like Google Self driving cabs in certain countries. Even though many companies are developing vehicles with a certain degree of automation so that the human driver can take control whenever needed but the day is not far when the world will have fully autonomous cars. The market is already flooded with cars that can perform a wide variety of functions just by receiving instructions.
Star Trek Transporter (Image Courtesy: scifi.stackexchange.com)
The Transporter, which first featured in the pilot episode of Star Trek Series titled “The Cage”, is a fictional teleportation machine. It converts a person or an object into an energy pattern then beams it to a target where it’s re-converted into matter. Inspired from this fictional machine, some German engineers succeeded in building a real life transported named “Scotty”, taken from the name of the chief engineer on the Starship Enterprise.
The machine makes use of 2 3D printers whereby one scans the object by a camera and destroys it while the other receives the details of the object’s structure digitally transmitted through internet. Hence the result is an exact replica of the object created by the second 3D printer. Another key development in the field of teleportation is quantum teleportation that involves sending information about the atomic locations between two points.
Star Trek Replicator (Image Courtesy: Popular Mechanics)
In the Star Trek Universe, the replicator is used as a device that can produce any object from a digital blueprint. However, not much thought and logic was put while designing the device for the show, as it could replicate almost anything (even food).
Inspired from this gadget, in real life we have 3D printers which can create a 3D version of any object. Although the material used is mainly plastic and actual food items can’t be printed out of it, yet the concept is almost the same. As the prices of the 3D printers would decline, its usage and accessibility would also become wider.
James Bond’s Rocket Belt in Thunderball (Image Courtesy: jamesbondwikia.com)
Jetpacks have been featured in various movies but one of the most unforgettable one could be described from the 1965 movie named Thunderball. In the movie, actor Sean Connery playing James Bond is seen using a Jetpack while escaping from two gunmen after killing Jacques Bouvar. It’s a device that attached to the wearer’s back and helps him propel through the air by using jets of gases or liquid.
Although the first prototypes were tested in the late 1950s followed by Bell Rocket Belt developed in the 1960s, Jetpacks are not commonly available for commercial sales. There have been various models developed so far but when it comes to the range and price, the concept is still far away to be used like that shown in the movies. If we talk about the JetPack Aviation’s product, it can fly up to 10 minutes and reach speeds of 60 mph.
8. Digital Mind Transfer
Digital Mind Transfer in the Movie Transcendence (Image Courtesy: YouTube)
In the novel Altered Carbon, human personalities can be stored digitally, downloaded into new bodies, and even transmitted to other planets. A similar concept is shown in the movie Transcendence where Johnny Depp plays the character of a scientist whose consciousness is stored into a quantum computer and connected to the internet after he his hit with a bullet.
In reality, human hasn’t reached the actual solution but many futurists believe that in the near future, it will be possible to upload human minds to computers. However, the fact is that neural engineering is making significant achievements towards modeling the brain and developing technologies to restore or replace some of its biological functions. So, if not fully, at least a portion of the biological elements would be stored.
Back to the Future Skateboard (Image Courtesy: news.digitalmediaacademy.com)
A fictional skateboard that levitates above the ground made its fictional debut with ‘Back to the Future Part II’ in 1989. Since then people have been crazy for hoverboards. Although we have hands free scooters now, those work on wheels instead of levitating.
In reality, an actual hoverboard called Hendo has been developed by a company named Arx Paz, which is worth $10,000. Another similar product has been introduced by Lexus that uses superconductors for levitation. However, both of these hoverboards can work only on conductive surfaces. So if you are dreaming of using them as Marty did in the movie, that still seems to be a distant reality.
Humanoid Shown in Metropolis (1927) [Image Courtesy: Pinterest]
One of the earliest portrayals of human-like robots was made in the movie ‘Metropolis’ released in 1927. It shows a mad scientist who transforms a robot into an exact replica of another character named Maria. Coming to the implementation, there are various kinds of robots from toy robots to artificial animals and even humanoids. Humanoids are the kind of robots who look just like humans and they can even talk to a person based on their programming. However, when we talk about their functionality, they simply follow instructions without using much logic on their own.
Most of them can act as social robots for accompanying old citizens or as domestic help; some are even designed with an artificial skin and hair to look just like a human. But when compared to the movies like Terminator, we are still far away from a world where robots could replicate another person’s behaviour or save us from our enemies.
Sci-fi is the most exciting genres for most of us and it’s not just the movies about the future technology predictions but even cartoon shows, TV series, and novels. The above-mentioned list contains 10 Sci-Fi technologies that are actually real but there are many more science fiction concepts like the air touch display featured in Minority Report, the Jetsons’ Robot Maid, Futurama Smell-O-Scope, etc.
Such artworks inspire us to live in a world which is pure magical and full of impossibilities. But often these creations help us to create what has never been created before thus leading to amazing inventions.
Filed Under: ARM, PIC Microcontroller, Tech Articles