People have been dreaming up moon landings since Jules Verne wrote From Earth to the Moon in 1865. (Coincidentally, the real moon landing happened almost exactly 100 years later).
Sometimes, life imitates art. This has been especially true of the science fiction genre. In 2020, there are smart phones, smart refrigerators, there are even smart mattresses. This article is about 12 of the zaniest potshots that have actually turned into our boring everyday reality.
1. 3D printers
In Star Trek (1968), molecular synthesizers could make items like laser guns, pan-fried catfish, and even entire ship parts. This handy gadget consisted of a hotplate kind of machine that would shift molecules (atoms?) into pretty much any imaginable inanimate object. (For now) the real thing is a bit less extravagant than a machine that literally fuses atoms on demand, but 3D printers are one of the most promising bits of technology the 2020s has to explore.
2. Eye scanning security
In The Incredibles (2004) Elastigirl knocks out one of Syndrome’s guard’s and uses biometrics to gain access to Syndrome’s fortress. But what are biometrics? These are keys that machines can use to identify you. Usually they are used in lieu of a password.
- Palm print
- Hand geometry
- Fingerprint ridges
- Iris and retinas
3. Mind-controlled devices
This is a crazy sci-fi gizmo that actually exists in 2020. As of early 2019, Udrone, a Hong Kong tech company has operated a mind-controlled drone project on Indiegogo. These basic forms of human-computer interface have sprung up in a few different industries.
You tell this machine to take pictures by blinking your eyes.
4. Bionic legs
Cyborg from Teen Titans is half machine. There are countless examples in the sci-fi of human beings who survived freak accidents and became superhumans as a result. In cinema, examples include Robocop and The 6 Million Dollar Man; in real life, you can Keahi Seymour to the list.
Keahi is the creator of bionic boots, an invention which allows normal human beings to run as fast as Usain Bolt. These boots have yet to achieve widespread commercial success, but can still be found on his website.
Luke Skywalker and other heroes are chased by ruffians on hoverbikes throughout the Star Wars saga. Now you can too. The Hoverbike S3 is a cross between a flying car and a drone that flies about 20 feet in the air. They are used by a few hundred people around the world today, including Dubai’s police force.
They cost about $150,000 and can remain in the air for about two-and-a-half hours. The max speed is about 60 mph.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are known as drones. This put satellites in that category—even satellites from as far back as 1960. However, what we have today is so much more complex than a Soviet-era satellite or a basic toy plane, that society has decided to turn it into a sport. In 2018, the University of Florida hosted the first ever mind-controlled drone race.
Drones today are indispensable tools that can be used for video work, surveying, government projects and GPSing.
7. Air touch technology
In Iron Man and Minority Report, the heroes communicate with machines without a keyboard. Instead, they use a three dimensional sort of screen which allows them to pan and use a wider range of movements. With the advent of VR, this dream has rapidly become a reality.
8. Self-tying laces
In Back to the Future, Marty McFly predicted Nike’s HyperAdapt self-tying laces, which came out in 2016. Nike says their product offers “adaptive lacing.” It works using a sensor under the heel part of the shoe that knows that you need. The smart shoe even makes a futuristic whirring sound as it tightens or loosens the strings.
9. In-ear headphones
Guy Montaug, the hero of Fahrenheit 451, lives in a world where people are totally consumed by the media they consume 24/7. In the book, Guy’s wife, for example, talks to AI that she treats like her friends through the use of her “Seashells.” This 1950s guess at futuristic technology was pretty spot on. Today we not only don’t need cords for our headphones, they are pretty much the smallest they can be without actually falling inside out ears.
In 1889, Jules Verne, predicted that there would be advertisements painted in clouds in the sky. Today, this isn’t a cost-effective strategy for most cases, but the technology is definitely there! Somehow, it is reassuring to know that this ominous prediction that corporations will someday find a way to buy our privacy away has been an ongoing theme in satire and sci-fi for hundreds of years.