After more than 10 years of waiting, 2017 will certainly be a memorable one for Star Trek fans. Star Trek: Discovery, the latest saga in the legendary Star Trek universe finally made its debut last sunday, to commemorate 51 years of the iconic sci-fi TV series on CBS. The original show was first aired way back in 1966, and soon went on to become a cultural phenomenon like no other.
When we use the term ‘cultural phenomenon’ to describe a TV show, you can probably imagine the massive impact it had on global audiences. But Star Trek’s sheer awesomeness surely doesn’t end here, as fictional technologies displayed in the show have continued to inspire scientists and inventors for almost half a century. You might be surprised to know that several technologies and gadgets that we so casually use today, were first conceptualized by the crazy yet inventive Gene Roddenberry.
We already discussed how several sci-fi weapons and tech are impractical and how they’re nothing more than gimmicks had they existed. So if you’re a true ‘Trekkie’, who doesn’t care about gimmicky light saber mumbo jumbo, here are some real time practical technologies that Star Trek has inspired.
You may throw around your iPad today, but back in the days it was only members of the Starfleet academy who could use such tech. One can find plenty of data on how Personal Access Data Devices (PADDs) could be considered a sci-fi precursor to the iPad. In the show, PADDs were used by Starfleet crew for data analysis, maintenance, communication and entertainment. Before Apple launched iPads, such devices were considered to be improbable and was deemed impractical. That’s a totally different story now!
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Not sure about you, but as sci-fi fanatics we’ve surely dreamed of having a hi-tech eye that could augment our visual capabilities. Most of us probably saw such a gadget in Star Trek:
The Next Generation where it was worn by sightless Commander Geordi La Forge. Interestingly, a similar device was recently tested in London that stimulates the retina to make vision possible. Named Iris II, the eyepiece comprises of a camera that sends image signals to the brain. This is being tested on blind patients in various hospitals and healthcare facilities across UK, Germany and France.
Ok, we know that nothing beats Sharks with Laser Cannons on their heads, but the idea of a Laser powered weapon surely stems from Star Trek’s Phaser. While Laser Guns have long been science fiction mainstays, we didn’t really see a real version that was actually combat ready. But we’re not very far from having weaponized laser technology as displayed by ‘LaWS’ or Laser Missile System that is deployed aboard the USS Ponce warship. It fires a concentrated infrared beam at that can either destroy or immobilise its target. Just like Phasers shown in Star Trek that could be tuned to either kill or just stun the opponent. Although there’s still time before such tech could be miniaturized for mobile infantry, we finally have a laser cannon!
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We surely don’t want something as pointless as elevators to become self-aware. But with introduction of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we’re definitely heading towards a future depicted in Star Trek. Fully capable self-sentient machines will soon be possible with growth in AI sector. According to a Japanese robotics company Softbank, “By the middle of the 21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win a soccer game, complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.” At this rate, humanity will soon become obsolete it seems.
Voice Controlled Gadgets
Ever since we saw Starfleet members using devices with voice commands there has been a constant demand for this tech. Let us admit, we hate pushing buttons and even the almighty remote control is losing its edge. While Voice Commands sounded like a work of fiction back in the 60s, one can find tons of gadgets now that can be controlled verbally. Personal assistant programs such as Siri, Bixby and Cortana have shown tremendous promise along with Internet of Things in past couple years. At this rate, you don’t have to be a space cadet to become futuristic.
We all were stunned when we first saw Captain Picard order tea from Food Replicator. We sure drool a lot while looking at videos or photographs of succulent and exotic food items from around the globe. But what if we could also download those dishes just like we do with digital media? Surprisingly, that is now possible with 3D printed food. A Spanish tech company ‘Natural Machines’ has created a 3D printer that can print a variety of fully edible foods. It means you can simply download various recipes and print them anytime. Pizza delivery certainly won’t be a career option in the future.
We’re totally not saying that Star Trek is the only science fiction show to inspire real time technology. Nevertheless, it’s still the only show to inspire so many that are actually useful. Sorry Star Wars fans, but even Borgs won’t assimilate George Lucas’ fairytale ideas!