Do you ever think about how life in 2014 sometimes feels like a science fiction movie from the 80s (but without the bad special effects and worse hair)? We’ve got robots, cars that drive themselves, people preparing for a mission to Mars from which they will never return, cellphones that answer our questions with witty retorts and even pets learning to use touchscreen tablet computers.
In fact, a lot of technological inventions that are either in development or in use in our daily lives were once fictional concepts and gadgets introduced in science fiction. Here are 10 inventions from the sci-fi world that have become reality.
Mark Twain came up with the idea of the Internet in a sci-fi story 80 years before it was developed. In the story he describes a telephone network called “telectroscope” – a network which connected the world and allowed people from around the globe to share information. What’s more amazing about this, is that when he wrote the story, telephones hadn’t been around for long – so he was coming up with an idea of the potential power of global connection with not much real-life fact to back it up.
2. Self-driving cars
Google reckons its self-driving cars (which are said to be safer than human-driven cars) will be available for consumers in the next couple of years, which could mean that our roads could be be taken over by computers. The next step: flying cars!
3. Google Glass
These futuristic glasses look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie. In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, Google Glass is a wearable computer in the form of glasses – like a smartphone with no actual phone, which is controlled by voice commands. Google Glass went on sale to the public in May 2014 for a rather hefty price, so the masses haven’t converted over to this wearable technology (yet). Some early users of Google Glass include the New York Police Department, who are doing research into how Google Glass can be used to help police work: a step towards real-life RoboCops?
Speaking of robots, the first one was invented in 1948 and since then they’ve been the subject of scores of sci-fi movies – as well as becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated in real life. Today there are robots that can play ping pong, industrial robots used in machinery and manufacturing, household robots that vacuum floors and clean pools, and in a world-first – a robot that sits on the board of directors of a venture capital firm in Hong Kong, which will vote on financial decisions made by the firm. Research into and developments of artificial intelligence are so far advanced that many people have raised fears about the future of AI and its implications for the human race. Will it result in the computers vs. humans battle of the Terminator movies, or true love and deep relationships as depicted in the movie Her?
5. Cell phones
Thirty years before cell phones were invented, they were conceived of as the futuristic “communicator” in Star Trek, which looked amazingly similar to the first clunky brick-like cell phones and also pre-empted the flippy cover look.
6. The Force Field
Force fields have been around in sci-fi books and movies since the 1920s, perhaps most memorably on Star Trek. What once seemed like complete fantasy might actually become reality: British military scientists are working on creating force fields using electromagnetic energy to protect vehicles in attacks.
7. Virtual reality
In the 1950s Arthur C. Clark wrote about an alien planet run by computers where humans live in a virtual reality. Since then other sci-fi books and movies, such as the Matrix trilogy, have explored the concept, as it’s been developed concurrently in the real world. Virtual reality is now so advanced it’s being used in combat and pilot training, and virtual worlds in gaming, such as SecondLife are set to become ever more immersive.
8. Flexible e-paper
Remember the flexible electronic newspaper from the movie Minority Report? Headlines and copy changed in real time on the newspaper. LG and Sony have both developed flexible e-paper which we could all be soon using instead of e-readers and tablets.
There are many more sci-fi inventions that have become reality that aren’t on this list – which ones would you add?