Imagine you were a child in the 1940s, sitting in front of your television set watching a science fiction movie about space. Would you believe me if I told you the human race would land on the moon some 30 odd years later, or that we launched an electric car into space and it just passed mars? Most of you would cry "Rubbish!".
Science fiction has always been that genre that pushes the boundaries of reality, but also make it seem like this life wouldn't be impossible to attain in the future. From early narratives to motion pictures, this genre has laid the foundations for amazing real-life creations that have changed the way the world works. Come with us as we go through 10 coolest sci-fi inventions that modern tech made real!
10. Credit Cards
Are you one of the few people that carry cash around when they go out? I know I don’t! I rely on my trusty credit card which is accepted in nearly all the places I go to, even when I'm in a different country. But was this a new idea that just emerged as of late? Believe it or not, the first reference for the credit card was used in a utopian novel named “Looking Backwards” by Edward Bellamy way back in 1887. There are multiple references to the usage of the credit card within his novel which eerily fits the exact build of what we use it for today.
9. Vacuum Robots
Great for no-mind, no-fuss cleaning of the carpet in your house, the humble robotic vacuum is emerging as the must-have household appliance of the near future. With its smart sensors and automatic scheduling, it takes the legwork out of that hated chore of vacuuming. One of the earliest examples of the robotic vacuum in sci-fi is from the lovable space-age family The Jetsons where, at the push of a button, a robot vacuum would pop out of a wall and do its job. Mind you, this was conceived in the year 1962 which makes it even more impressive!
8. Self-Driving Cars
Douglas Quaid, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, had the pleasure (or displeasure) of riding in a Johnny Cab taxi in the movie Total Recall in 1990. For those who don’t remember, Johnny Cab was a self-driving taxi service that ferried people around the city - something that is well on the way to happening today. Roughly 90% of all car crashes are caused by human error; which has been proven by many studies performed around the world, so the introduction of the self-driving car was borne out of the necessity to save lives right? One of Google’s sibling companies ‘Waymo’ its planning to launch its fully autonomous ride-hailing service this year.
7. Handheld Medical Diagnosis
In the Star Trek universe, there is a device called the medical tricorder, a sophisticated handheld sensor configured to analyze and diagnose medical ailments and conditions. As futuristic as this may seem, this isn’t as far off as you think. One handheld kit known as DxtER is a sophisticated iPad app with artificial intelligence programmed in. Using a suite of non-invasive sensors, it can collect body data such as vital signs, body functions, and chemistry. The main winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize; it is sure to pave the way for handheld medical diagnosis.
6. Full Body Scanners
Another brilliant sci-fi piece of tech borne out of the Total Recall movies is the full body scanner. As Douglas Quaid walks past the security checkpoint, the guards are able to see everything in detail, skeleton and all. In 2017, Schipol International Airport became the first airport in the world to employ the high tech millimeter-wave full body scanner. The scan takes 3 seconds and uses harmless radio waves to detect anything of interest.
5. Video Phone Calls
The year is 1927, and the cinematic wonder of Metropolis is released into the world. The character Joe Malia is seen to use a contraption with multiple dials and he presses a few buttons to hone in on a specific frequency. The picture becomes clearer, and eventually connects to a distressed looking man on the other end. Back in the days of silent films, this may have been inconceivable. Taking a look now, you'd be hard pressed to find a phone without video call capabilities. With the introduction of higher speeds, newer technologies, and social media in this tech age, video calls are now a part of life.
4. 3D Printers
Something that wasn't well known to the average Trekkie was how the replicator worked. Using transporter technology (that 'Beam me up, Scotty' device), the operator was able to copy or replicate any object; even food. 3D printers in this day and age perform the same function by inputting a file with the details of an item to be created. The printer will then use a plastic filament to build up layers on layers and create an object. We're not even stopping at objects; buildings and even organs have been 3D printed so far!
3. Active Denial System
Everyone has that one image in their head after they watched the Steven Spielberg War of the Worlds remake in 2015... of the heat ray bursting out of the Martians and turning anyone it touched into dust where they stood. Similar (but less lethal), is the Active Denial System developed by the US military, which emits a directional millimeter wave which generates heat. The idea is that the target is made uncomfortably hot, and so moves out of the way. It's primarily used for crowd control (not destroying cities!). Taking it up a notch is ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset system). By shooting an intense laser at threats such as rockets, UAVs, ships, and boats, it's sure to make quick work of anything it targets.
If you haven’t seen an Iron Man comic or movie; educate yourself. Impervious to bullets, superhuman strength and built in weapon systems are but some of the features that Tony Stark’s creations have. Back to reality, Raytheon is currently developing an exo-suit with the US military that can lift objects at a ratio of 17:1! What this means for a soldier is they have added endurance for carrying loads or equipment, as well as enhanced combat ability in the battlefield.
1. Solar Sails
Imagine this if you will: racing ships from the Earth to the Moon, reaching speeds up to 2000 miles per hour, using sails powered by the sun. Sounds cool right? This was ones of the highlights in the short story “Sunjammer” by Arthur C. Clarke, which was written for the Boy’s Life magazine issue of March 1964. Fast forward to the 20th century, and the team at NASA who, in 2011, embarked on the planning and development of the solar sail. This demonstration intended to provide the viability and value of using solar sails; massive, ultra-thin sheets of material propelled by radiation pressure which is exerted by sunlight on large attached mirrors of the spacecraft. The dream is to use solar sails as a means of alternative propulsion for long-haul space missions such as exploration and deep space research.