There is little doubt that as time marches on, the sheer amount of impressive technology that each of us has access to will grow exponentially. After all it was only 30 years ago that the thought of home computing was a novel and futuristic concept, whereas today, the thought of not having immediate access to some kind of computer is a scary and disconcerting one. Technology has gotten to the point where all of those fantastic visions of the future we grew up with have come true in some form or another. To me, this proves that we currently are living in the sci-fi future so frequenty imagined in the past.
9. X-ray Body Scanners
One of the biggest controversies in the world at the moment is the increasing presence of full body scanners stationed at security lines in various major airports. Some feel that an apparatus capable of forming an image of a person’s body sans clothing is an invasion of their privacy that could easily be abused. Others are happy to cooperate with any measures that are taken to potentially decrease their chances of exploding over the Atlantic.
Despite the controversy, the point remains that the advent of full body X-ray scanners marks a potentially dystopic threshold that not even George Orwell had imagined. As fears over personal security continue to rise for the foreseeable future, body scanning machines using backscatter X-rays and millimeter radio waves may become ubiquitous and unavoidable in everyone’s daily lives just as they already are for frequent fliers. It isn’t hard to imagine a future where body scanners operate at the entrances of schools and grocery stores and where we use retinal scanners to unlock our front door rather than primitive jagged objects; it isn’t hard to imagine because it’s already here.
8. Wikileaks Infowar
At this time a little more than a year ago, no one (except potentially our readers) had heard of Wikileaks or could venture a guess as to what that word was even supposed to mean. Now, Wikileaks has leapt to the forefront of populist politics by exposing many top secret government and military files before being shut down and squashed by the US government and various large corporations. However, the Wikileaks flame was not so easily snuffed out as a number of people, collectively dubbed “Anonymous”, have taken it upon themselves to punish those who helped shut down the site and those who abandoned Wikileak’s dubious perception of free speech at the behest of the government. To this end, Anonymous electronically attacked various corporations’ websites such as Visa, MasterCard, Postfinance (the Swiss Bank that had closed Wikileaks account), and defied the government by rehosting Wikileaks’ cables all over the internet. This first battle of a new virtual info-rebellion wasn’t fought with rifles and bullets, but with computers and scripts and is an eerie preview of the way wars may be fought in the immediate future.
7. Virtual Reality
Since the 80s, virtual reality has been the holy grail of video gaming and entertainment. It has often eluded the most brilliant minds who endeavored to develop it. However, two Russian brothers recently have cracked the VR code by simply putting prospective gamers inside a giant hamster ball. The ubiquitous VR headset is equipped with gyroscopes that measure the position of the gamer’s head and swivel the view of the game accordingly. Gamers enter the ball and, thanks to the wheels on which it is mounted, are able to walk indefinitely within the virtual world just as they could in the real one. While you need a large room and a decidedly avant-garde jumpsuit to enter this “world,” the fact remains that it’s the closest we’ve ever come to true virtual reality and is yet another marker that the future imagined 30 years ago is now the present.
6. Personal Jetpacks
Since the 1950s, most people have considered the prevalence of personal jet packs to be the true indicator that we have officially entered into the sci-fi era. From its first conception, many people have tried to bring that idea into fruition but have always fallen short for one reason or another, be it impossibly short flight times or extreme danger of explosion. Yet the Martin Aircraft Company has managed to engineer and manufacture a jetpack that is not only practical, but is as affordable as a Porsche 911.
The jetpack is capable of flight for about 30 minutes at around 60 miles per hour, is easy to use and is actually pretty safe (which essentially just means it won’t explode horribly when turned on). In fact, the only thing standing in the way of the Martin Jetpack becoming the go-to commuter vehicle for everyone in the country is the price tag and a few pesky airspace laws. But as soon as they are mass produced and flight plans are designed to avoid urban areas, you will be jetting to work like James Bond on a daily basis.
5. The Most Powerful Gun Ever Made
The military considers it a priority to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to weapons technology. Not content with firing huge explosive shells for miles at a time, the US Navy has been researching into advances in the field of rail guns and has recently made a breakthrough by constructing the most powerful firearm the world has ever seen. The “gun” is as big as a school bus and uses a series of powerful electromagnets to fire a 20-pound projectile with over 33 Megajoules of force, a world record. That amount of force is enough to propel the heavy mass of death over 100 miles at 8 times the speed of sound. Though it causes a mini sonic boom explosion when coming out of the barrel, the projectile has no need for an explosive warhead as the sheer amount of force it strikes with is enough to completely obliterate any target. This allows the Navy to park outside any country they please, fire up the rail gun, and accurately send a jagged rocket of steel hurtling at any target they wish with very little collateral damage; an Admiral’s dream.
4. Sonic Weapons
As if a super powerful rail gun wasn’t enough, military and law enforcement agencies have developed weapons that simply force the enemy to lose the will to fight without needing to fire a single shot. Sonic weapons use high frequencies of sound at extremely loud volumes to injure, incapacitate, or annoy enemy combatants or crowds of people in order to force them to disperse without risking lives. Some sonic weapons are designed to rupture ear drums which causes severe pain and disorientation, while others are a bit gentler and only cause nausea and extreme discomfort, making it much more difficult for enemies to muster the will to fight. There is even a device that has been designed to specifically cause the eyeballs to vibrate, which distort vision and temporarily blind a person. The sound waves are even capable of penetrating steel and concrete so there is little defense against them. Already used in urban settings to disperse crowds, the presence of sonic weapons may make organized protests ineffective or even a thing of the past.
3. Submersible Car
In the future, cars are no longer restricted to roads and four rubber wheels. Not only will cars fly, but they will be able to submerge underwater as well for those who, for some reason, need to commute across a lake.
Well, the future is here because a Swiss car manufacturer called Rinspeed has created the very first submersible car that actually works. Called the Squba, the car was inspired by James Bond’s white Lotus Esprit and uses electric motors exclusively to power its wheels and propellers. Submerging is as simple as driving into the water, strapping on the built-in SCUBA regulator, and allowing the water to enter the cabin. The car glides effortlessly under the water and when it’s time for work, it easily resurfaces and transfers back to dry land. Your wet business suit may not be so easily dried however.
2. Universal Translator
One of the coolest Star Trek innovations was the Universal Translator that allowed Kirk, Picard, and the gang to converse with a myriad of different alien species completely unfettered by potential language barriers. Even without a galaxy full of alien species to worry about, there are still thousands of different languages and dialects on our planet alone whose differences can create problems in many different settings.
A new iPhone app called Word Lens has taken the first step toward the realization of a real life universal translator and solving our language gulfs once and for all. The app is able to instantly translate images of words within the image itself. For instance, if you pointed the iPhone camera at a “No Parar” sign while on holiday in Spain, the screen image will instantly display the English translation within the sign: “No Stopping.” This augmented reality app is capable of translating any image from Spanish to English and back again, including menus, road signs, or billboards. It is only a matter of time before every language is covered.
1. Moller Skycar
What do you think of first when you think about “The Future”? Why, flying cars of course!
While jetpacks are cool, everyone has dreamed about someday owning a flying car where roads have no meaning and traffic is a thing of the past. The trouble with realizing the dream is that a real, practical flying car would have to be capable of vertical take off and landing, be easy to maintain and operate, cost effective and reliable – which no one has been able to pin down – until now! Moller International have created the first working prototype of an actual flying car called the M400 Skycar that is capable of cruising at around 300 MPH, achieves 20 miles to the gallon and has a range of about 750 miles. Moller have conducted a few take off and landing tests already with a flying test scheduled for 2012.