It’s an undeniable fact that the newest technologies such as mobile tech, genetic engineering, and the emerging field of nanotech differ from the technologies that preceded them in a fundamental way. Our world is transforming rapidly and violently to the point where many people feel completely unable to comprehend and utilize these advancements. Ironically, we witnessed many of these new “things” and technologies in sci-fi films and graphic comics first, and if someone had told us back then that it would only take a couple of decades for these changes to enter our lives, we would have probably laughed. Think about it: Back in the early ’90s emerging computer technology was used by a limited number of people worldwide, and now, a quarter century later, everyone has a smartphone and a laptop. Can you even imagine what the world will look like in 2030, even 2050? And the scariest part of all (especially if you’re a geek like me) is the fact that science fiction, the literature of the human species encountering vast, mind-altering changes, whether they arrive via scientific discoveries, technological innovations, natural events, aliens, or societal shifts, has recently lost its magic and glimpse to the point we wonder what is real and what is not nowadays. But if you think we’re being over-dramatic, then check out these 25 Modern Science And Technologies You’d Swear Are Science Fiction and you will see we’re not exaggerating at all.
Voice control is now a trend
One of the most fascinating movie villains of modern cinema was HAL, the voice-controlled computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the introduction of software like Siri on the iPhone 4S, voice control has gone mainstream.
The Cancer Gene Fingerprint
To begin with, not all cancers are equally fatal; for example, prostate cancer means a longer survival rate than a tumor in your esophagus. The good news, however, is that by analyzing the mutated genome of a tumor, doctors can now pinpoint whether a cancer is sensitive to a certain chemotherapy, or one that doesn’t respond at all to current treatments. In other words, knowing the subtype might mean jumping directly to a clinical trial that could save your life.
Robot snake automatically wraps around an object when thrown
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Biorobotics laboratory have adapted one of their robotic snakes to cause it to automatically wrap itself around an object when it is thrown. Upon impact, the snake immediately wraps its body around the target—in test cases, a light pole and tree branch, and holds on, supporting itself. Robot snakes have been developed in recent years to mimic the actions of their real-life counterparts and scientists believe their leg- and feet-free mode of locomotion might be ideal for use in hard to reach places, such as buildings that have been demolished by an earthquake.
It might still sound like a scene from a sci-fi movie to some but the flying car is here and it’s totally legal. The Terrafugia flying car gets thirty-five miles to the gallon as a car and consumes five gallons per hour as a plane. It flies at 115 miles per hour and can cover 490 miles per flight. You can buy one today, starting with a $10,000 deposit.
First planet with FOUR suns discovered
An international team of astronomers have announced the discovery of a planet whose skies are illuminated by four suns—the first known of its type. The planet, located about five thousand light-years from Earth, has been dubbed PH1 in honor of Planet Hunters, a program led by Yale University in the United States that enlists volunteers to look for signs of new planets.
NASA begins using robotic exoskeletons
The X1 Robotic Exoskeleton weighs in at fifty-seven pounds and contains four motorized joints along with six passive ones. With two settings, it can either hinder movement, such as when helping astronauts exercise in space, or aid movement, assisting paraplegics with walking.
Diamond planet discovered
Planet 55 Cancri e is what’s known as a super-Earth because it is likely a rocky world orbiting a sun-like star, but it has a radius twice as large as that of Earth, and a mass eight times greater. The hot planet also races around its star at such a close distance that one year lasts just eighteen hours. The “alien planet,” as it’s also known, is thought to be made largely of diamond but new studies have shown that it might be less than glittering inside.
Artificial leaves generate electricity
Using relatively inexpensive materials, Daniel G. Nocera created the world’s first practical artificial leaf. The self-contained units mimic the process of photosynthesis, but the end result is hydrogen instead of oxygen. The hydrogen can then be captured into fuel cells and used for electricity, even in the most remote locations on Earth.
Voyager I leaves the Solar System
Launched in 1977, Voyager I traveled past Jupiter and Saturn and by 2013 (when NASA confirmed that it left our solar system) traveled more than 11.66 billion miles (18.67 billion kilometers) from the sun, becoming the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space.
Self-Driving bus is legal in Greece
Four tiny, driverless buses are already on trial in the Greek city of Trikala, the first of five European cities to introduce the automated transportation. The vehicles are part of CityMobil2, an EU-funded research project that is staging tests of automated road transport systems with self-driving buses across Europe. Each bus can carry 10 to 12 passengers at speeds of up to twenty kilometers an hour, around the same speed as a milk float, but keep in mind that these buses are electric, silent, and non-polluting.
3-D printer creates full-size houses in one session
The D-Shape printer, created by Enrico Dini, is capable of printing a two-story building, complete with rooms, stairs, pipes, and partitions. Using nothing but sand and an inorganic binding compound, the resulting material has the same durability as reinforced concrete with the look of marble. The building process takes approximately a fourth of the time as traditional buildings, as long as it sticks to rounded structures, and can be built without specialist knowledge or skill sets.
DNA was photographed for the first time
Using an electron microscope, Enzo di Fabrizio and his team at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa managed to capture the famous Watson-Crick double helix in all its glory, by imaging threads of DNA resting on a silicon bed of nails. This technique now allows the researchers to see how proteins, RNA, and other biomolecules interact with DNA.
Genetically modified silk is stronger than steel
At the University of Wyoming, scientists modified a group of silkworms to produce silk that is, pound for pound, stronger than steel. Different groups hope to benefit from the super-strong silk, including the medical community for stronger sutures, businesses for use as a biodegradable alternative to plastic, and the military for lightweight armor.
DARPA robot can traverse an obstacle course
DARPAtv, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, published a robot-themed viral video back in 2012 for a robotic presentation. The so-called Pet-Proto bot traversed through a specially made obstacle course using autonomous decision-making. Many viewers couldn’t resist and commented that once the creepy robot will be able to execute such things without the help of wires, humanity is doomed.
Laser guns are now a reality
You’ve seen those flashy laser guns in films like Star Wars and Terminator and you probably thought they only belong to the world of science fiction. Well, you’re wrong! The US Army has a weaponized laser called the Avenger. It’s twenty times hotter than a stovetop and can cut through artillery shells. It’s currently in use to dismantle IEDs, which do more damage to US forces than any other weapon.
Eye implants give sight to the blind
Recently two blind men in the UK were fitted with eye implants during an eight-hour surgery with promising results. After years of blindness, both had regained “useful” vision within weeks, picking up the outlines of objects and dreaming in color. Doctors expect continued improvement as their brains rewire themselves for sight.
Quadriplegic successfully uses mind-controlled robotic arm
In 2012, a quadriplegic woman managed to move a robotic arm using only her thoughts, to a level of proficiency that allowed her to eat a chocolate bar with said arm. The University of Pittsburgh team behind the study didn’t stop there, though. By improving the technology in the arm and working more closely with test subject Jan Scheuermann, researchers have since enabled her to replace the simple pincer grip of before with four new hand shapes—fingers spread, pinch, scoop, and thumb up—that allow for more complicated object manipulation.
You can swallow a pill-sized camera instead of invasive scopes
Colonoscopies can be an uncomfortable procedure for patients who may already be worried about what results will be found. When the results are inconclusive, a patient’s options can be limited, causing further distress. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved a device for use after an incomplete procedure that is minimally invasive and can achieve similar imaging results to a colonoscopy. PillCam Colon is a pill-sized camera that is swallowed and passes through a patient’s gastrointestinal tract.
inFORM 3-D display allows remote manipulation of physical objects
The inFORM Dynamic Shape Display from MIT’s Tangible Media Group allows users to interact with data with a minimum of physical barriers. It also allows users to virtually reach through a display screen and manipulate physical objects that may be thousands of miles away. While the current version of inFORM has very limited spatial resolution, watching it in action gives one a strong impression of the potential of such devices.
Engineers create a paper-thin robot skin that responds to touch
A new milestone by engineers at UC Berkeley can help robots become more touchy-feely, literally. A research team led by Ali Javey, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, has created the first user-interactive sensor network using flexible plastic. The new electronic skin, or e-skin, responds to touch by instantly lighting up. The more intense the pressure, the brighter the light it emits. We can’t help but wonder if James Cameron knew something we didn’t when he was filming the first Terminator in the ’80s.
Scientists create Matrix-esque artificial womb
It might sound like a sick movie plot (yes, I am talking about you Matrix) but the artificial womb exists in the real world too. In Tokyo, researchers have developed a technique called EUFI—extrauterine fetal incubation. They have taken goat fetuses, threaded catheters through the large vessels in the umbilical cord, and supplied the fetuses with oxygenated blood while suspending them in incubators that contain artificial amniotic fluid heated to body temperature. Thanks to these scientists we are now one step closer to becoming batteries for our robot masters.
Human brain is hacked
With a chilling hint of the not-so-distant future, researchers at the Usenix Security conference have demonstrated a zero-day vulnerability in your brain. Using a commercial off-the-shelf brain-computer interface, the researchers have shown that it’s possible to hack your brain, forcing you to reveal information that you’d rather keep secret. With an EEG (electroencephalograph) headset attached to the scalp and software to figure out what the neurons firing are trying to do, it watches for spikes in brain activity when the user recognizes something like their ATM PIN number or a child’s face.
Invisibility cloak technology took a huge leap forward
The British Columbia–based company HyperStealth Biotechnology showed a functioning prototype of its new fabric to the US and Canadian military this year. The material, called Quantum Stealth, bends light waves around the wearer without the use of batteries, mirrors, or cameras. It can block the subject from being seen by visual means but also keeps them hidden from thermal scans and infrared.
Superman’s view through walls becomes reality
At MIT, engineers are working on a device that allows the user to gather data on what is moving on the other side of a wall. Called Wi-Vi, the prototype translates movement in much the same way sonar detection does.
The world’s first fully mind-controlled synthetic leg goes for a stroll
Connected to its owner by two nerves and computer sensors, this bionic leg works in exactly the same manner as a human leg. With an error rate of just 1.8 percent, it’s as close to a flawless mind-controlled limb as science has gotten yet. Created by the Chicago Center for Bionic Medicine, the leg is the latest in the line of future prosthetics.