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Cool Star Trek Tech that Has Become a Reality

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the vastly influential Star Trek franchise, once said in an interview that “The ...

Cool Star Trek Tech that Has Become a Reality

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the vastly influential Star Trek franchise, once said in an interview that “The funny thing is that everything is science fiction at one time or another.” This is certainly true about some of the gadgets that were inspired by Star Trek which now actually exist. Among the most obvious examples are mobile phones (Star Trek classic communicator), voice recognition, and Tasers (phasers).

There are others that aren’t quite so obvious because they’re very new, not yet commercially available, or still in development. Yet there are still some amazing innovations that have crossed over from fiction into reality.  Below are some examples of cutting-edge technologies inspired by Star Trek.

 

Star Trek TNG communicator

For those who aren’t Trekkies, in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), the communicator was the lapel which crew members tapped to open two-way communication with whomever they wanted. The Vocera Badge is very similar; it’s a small voice-activated device hung around the neck which allows people to communicate with one another via the same WiFi network. It is ideal for workers who are always on the go and on call, such as security personnel or healthcare professionals.

 

Transparent aluminum

Lightweight and sturdy enough to stop a 50 mm bullet, aluminum oxynitride or ALON is what engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott was talking about in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when he referred to transparent aluminum.

This substance is used mainly as protective armor by the military. It’s actually a polycrystalline ceramic made of aluminum, nitrogen, and oxygen. The transparent version was first patented in 1985, a year before the movie premiered. Technically, the technology came first, but it was popularized in the movie. Same deal with jet injectors (hyposprays).

 

VISOR

Also in TNG, the engineer Geordy LaForge who was blind since birth used a Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (VISOR) device to “see” the electromagnetic spectrum. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (also called bionic eyes) functions pretty much the same way, although the device (a small chip) is implanted behind the retina and paired with a camera mounted on a pair of glasses which transmit images to the chip. The chip then sends visual input to the brain. This pretty cool looking device is currently available in the US.

 

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Cloaking device

Romulans really had an edge when it came to evading and attacking because they could make themselves and their ships invisible using cloaking technology. Researchers from Purdue University are going all-out in their efforts to develop a rudimentary cloaking device, and they’re manipulating space and time to do it.

First, they designed a lens that would bend light around an object, effectively making it invisible. Currently, it can be done with something the width of a human hair strand. Therefore, it may take a while to get it to the point that it can cloak a whole human, never mind a spaceship.

In 2013, graduate student Joseph Lukens  proposed a way to manipulate time to make electrical signals undetectable. Lukens believes technology can be developed to extend the concept into both space and time.

 

Tractor beams

There are people working at getting these coolest of the cool technologies off the ground, but it’s rough going. Qualifying as a sort of tractor beam, something called optical tweezers have been developed that can pick up microscopic particles using lasers. It does not exactly have the high caliber needed to pull in escaping enemy ships, but still…

 

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Live long and prosper, and be sure to share your favorite science fiction turned factual technologies with us in the comment section.

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