Why do geeks love Star Trek? One reason could be that the technology it featured was actually much closer to becoming reality than the writers imagined. Because the tech was imaginable, it was accessible, and made us all yearn for the day when it became reality. Amazingly, that day is here in many cases. I’m certainly not the first person to note this, but in gathering the below Iists, I’ve been truly amazed at the number of items that are either here already or aren’t that far away. (For the Infographically inclined, here’s one person’s take).
Some Star Trek tech that is now a reality (I’ll include the modern equivalents): Communicators (cell phones), Hypospray, Touch-based Tablets that use gestures, Memory crystals (memory sticks), Voice activated natural language queries (Siri), Telepresence (video chat, teleconferencing).
And if that isn’t amazing enough, here is some Star Trek tech that is on the near horizon (say, the next 5-20 years): Universal Translators, Holodecks (a combination of exoskeletons with virtual reality), Sensors (e.g., see recent articles on T-Rays), Visors (packing sensors and displays into a set of what I like to call iGlasses), Tricorders, Phasers, Replicators (3D printers), Transporters (I would argue that if you combine a Holodeck with the ability to control a remote humanoid robot, you have for all intents transported), Subspace radio (at very low bit rates via quantum entanglement), Non invasive surgery, Cloaking.
Some Star Trek tech I don’t see anytime soon (but hey, I could be wrong, and others disagree with me): Artificial gravity, Shields, Warp Drive, Tractor Beams.
Sure, some of the details of how this technology was realized is different, but the effective functionality is there or will be soon. What amazes me the most isn’t that it’s a reality, but that we’ve gotten there so much faster than we expected. If you are old enough to have seen the original series back in the 60’s or in reruns in the 70’s, did you honestly believe you’d see some of this stuff in your lifetime?
Which raises the question – what interesting and foreseeable tech have other SciFi writers predicted? And shouldn’t we expect to see it much sooner than we think?
I’d love to hear your opinion and nominations for future tech in the comments below, via email, or as a reply via a social network…