Where are the flying cars?
Just thinking about typing that sentence invokes the wrath of the cliché police, but I have to admit I’m disappointed that several of science fiction’s most interesting predictions failed to materialize.
Looking to fiction authors to inspire scientific endeavor may sound counterintuitive, but we shouldn’t forget the role imagination plays in discovery: Jules Verne wrote about undersea travel (1870), H.G. Wells imagined genetics (1896), lasers (1898), and even television (1899); and William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” (1984).
We may not have Star Trek-style teleporters or warp drives—though some are seriously pursuing options for interstellar travel —but there are many exciting, real-world technological developments that sound like they came straight out of science fiction.
Virtual reality for your living room.
Many video games and video game platforms advertise themselves as “virtual reality,” but we haven’t quite created “The Matrix,” much less a holodeck. Nonetheless, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive , and similar products are certainly getting us closer. Most contemporary VR hardware includes a headset (some have headphones built in) and hand-held controllers, but some companies, like Virtuix Omni, are developing treadmills that allow users to simulate actually running inside the game world.
We’re going to have “Iron Man” armor?
The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS), an actual military project first conceived in 2013, may be branded an “Iron Man” suit, but it won’t grant flight, laser-like beams, or mini-missiles. It does, however, aim to provide soldiers with a powered, armored exoskeleton that increases the wearer’s strength and protects against bullets. Similar robotic exoskeletons are being developed to help victims of paralysis walk again.
“Resistance is futile.”
We probably won’t see a hive-mind collective of cybernetic organisms that integrate technology with their physiology, but new research shows that scientists are able to reproduce kinesthesia—the intuitive knowledge and sensation of where your limbs are and what they’re doing—in amputated limbs. The goal is to give amputees the ability to “feel” prosthetic limbs just as they would organic limbs.
Oh, and AeroMobil is hard at work developing flying cars, predicting a “roll out within five to seven years.”
Ryan Norton, contributor