Sci-Fi Meets Reality: 5 Gadgets That Went From Science Fiction to Science Fact

By Laura Kemmerer

Ask any Sci-Fi author of the last 50 years for a prediction of what technology the future might hold and you would get 50 very different answers. Machines that replace limbs, devices that are controlled with the wave of a hand, medical apparatuses that make invasive surgery a thing of the past as well as a number of other out-of-this world postulations have become a reality. As the cutting edge of technology becomes sharper, the predictions of the past are rapidly becoming the realities of the present.

Ultrasonic Wave Machine Reminiscent of Early Prototype of Sonic Screwdriver

science fiction meets science fact dr who sonic screw driver ultrasonic wave machine

At the University of Dundee, what looks to be a modest machine that simply lifts and rotates a rubber disc promises so much more than what its simple appearance might imply. Previously ultrasonic waves could only be used to push objects, but now ultrasonic beams can be projected into a helix shape, which allows the beam to be able to rotate the object in its path. According to BBC News, this means that the ultrasound wave can be targeted to a much more precise location, which will allow for far less invasive medical procedures.

science fiction meets science fact dr who sonic screw driver toy

Fans of the hit Sci-Fi TV show “Doctor Who” will have realized by now that this machine sounds a lot like an early prototype of the Doctor’s own sonic screwdriver—for those of you not in the know, the sonic screwdriver is a tool used by the Doctor to unlock things, control objects from a distance and to perform medical scans. And while the machine may not look a single thing like the sonic screwdriver in its current stage, we can safely assume that the Doctor would approve of the promise it holds in its capacity to help people.

Researchers have high hopes for the future of the device. The “sonic screwdriver” has the potential to do everything from delivering drugs to a targeted area to manipulating cells ultrasonically. There is also promise for the ability of more comprehensive, non-invasive surgery. With less of a need for invasive procedures, there will be less downtime for patients.

3-D Gesturing Control for iPad

science fiction meets science fact 3d gesture control for iPad

While motion-sensitive devices have already had a presence on the electronics market for a while now, Apple has recently acquired a patent that will allow users to control their iPad by making gestures a few inches above the iPad’s screen. According to the Patently Apple website, this patent does not emphasize a future of 3-D interaction with the iPad, but instead, each control will be comprised of a simple motion made by the hand, such as a question mark or a half circle.

Instead, the promise is that future iPad releases will have an advanced video editing toolbar. For people who rely upon their Apple products as a primary way to take video, this patent will offer a unique and more hands-on form of video management, such as on-video annotations. But it doesn’t stop with video editing, these same gestures can be applied to controlling certain elements of the iPad’s interface.

Even though the restrictions laid down by the patent make its development seem a bit lackluster so far, the user will not be restricted in the functionality of gestures. The patent promises that people will be able to create their own controls and be able to utilize alternatives, which promises to make the experience more user-friendly.

Virtual Reality

science fiction meets science fact virtual reality system

When the excitement of being able to control technology by waving one’s hand in front of a screen seems to fall flat there is the promise of being able to walk through virtual space. This is exactly what the VirtuSphere enables the user to do.

Comprised of a hollow sphere that is 10 feet in diameter, the unusual chamber is set on a unique platform that allows the empty ball to roll freely, directed only by the direction of the user’s footsteps. The person inside the sphere wears a virtual reality headset, which wholly immerses the user in a computer-generated environment. According to the VirtuSphere website, the uses for technology like this can be both practical and fun. From working as a simulation for the police and military and an exhibit experience for museums to bringing gaming to a whole new level, the possibilities seem to be endless.

Robotic Hands

science fiction meets science fact bionic robotic hand

While the boundaries of what is considered to be interactive virtual reality technology are constantly being pushed, there is nothing more interactive than being able to reach out touch the physical object itself. For people with missing or damaged limbs, prosthetics have existed for ages. The technology behind artificial limbs has vastly improved these last few years, but many hand prosthetics have left something to be desired. That was, until the announcement of the bebionic hand.

With a much more natural look of five very well, articulated fingers, the artificial hand also comes supplied with a fully functional wrist. According to the bebionic website, the limb itself has a number of pre-programmed grips, which are controlled by motors and microprocessors mounted on every finger. On top of that, software enables the user to customize their own individual hand movements for their unique use.

Holographic Human Interaction

science fiction meets science fact holographic image meeting

Many Sci-Fi authors have dreamed of being able to communicate with someone far away while being able to see them as if they were in the same room. There is the option to video chat with someone, but there is little to be seen of the other person and no accurate way to read body language other than what is visible on the screen. Now the dream shared by these authors has come true with new technology that allows the person to be in the room with you.

On par with holographic technology, the TeleHuman is a cylinder that serves as a 3-D rendering of the person the user is video chatting with. Mounted with six Microsoft Kinects and a 3-D projector, the user can walk around the cylinder, which will let them see all dimensions of the person they are interacting with.

According to the Human Media Lab website, the use of the TeleHuman device is not restricted to video chatting. An application called Bodipod has been developed, which allows the user to examine the ins and outs of the human body with the simple wave of a hand or the tap of a foot.

Whatever the future of technology holds, one can safely assume that science fiction has become science prediction.

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