Science fiction is well known for outlandish and futuristic gadgets. It’s not difficult to see how sci-fi creators are responsible for inspiring a number of real technological advancements that have shaped our modern world. From Star Trek to 2001: A Space Odyssey and beyond, Sci-Fi has had a direct effect on the trajectory of technological advancements. A number of groundbreaking inventions, once thought to be completely intangible, have been brought to life.
Star Trek, for instance, which originally aired in 1966, was ahead of its time in many respects. Innovative technological devices such as tablets, communicators, universal translators, tricorders even artificial intelligence and tractor beams are a reality. There are so many innovative concepts that have inspired inventors to recreate theses technological marvels for practical daily uses and further creative technological inventions.
Communication Devices that Influenced Modern Advancements
Most of us depend on some sort of technological device to communicate with friends, family and colleagues. There is a myriad of ways we can connect with people from cell phones, video conferences, messenger apps, intercoms and so forth. The concept of being able to communicate with anyone from anywhere was a truly novel and futurist idea when Star Trek first premiered in 1966.
Martin Cooper, the man often credited with the invention of the first portable cellular phone, has stated publicly the mobile communicators on Star Trek had a significant influence on his invention. As technology developed, Star Trek continues to inspire its advancement. Most notably, some of the first flip phones were identical to the props used in the 1960s Star Trek series.
Although flip phones have been replaced by smartphones, this evolutionary step closely coincides with the world of Star Trek. Similarly, video conferencing and hands-free bluetooth devices can be attributed to the popular science fiction TV show. The video screens and badges used to communicate with other ship members or nearby ships seem to have evolved along a similar modern day video conference screens and bluetooth devices.
It’s worth wondering how technology might have developed without the influence of Star Trek. It’s hard to know how much Star Trek predicted technological advancement and how much it directly shaped the development and trajectory of technology.
Health Discoveries: Dr. McCoy’s Sickbay
Dr. “Bones” McCoy had access to a number of smart health devices that helped him diagnose and heal his patients in unfathomable ways. The highly evolved gadgets found in McCoy’s sickbay have directly impacted health developments. Most notably, the tricorders and hypospray.
Star Trek’s hypospray has influenced the evolution of the real-life application, jet injections, which is a high-speed pressure jet administers medicine through the skin. Meanwhile, the handheld “tricorder” used to scan and detect illness without the need for painful and invasive tests is within our reach according to Final Frontier Medical Devices.
Although the original device from the Star Trek series had multiple functions, the medical functions have been the focus of a number of experiments and developments. The promise of painless, effective and quick diagnoses will help individuals make more informed decisions about when to get care, which ultimately leads to more efficient and less expensive care overall.
However, we do have access to a variety of smart health options to help monitor our health in the meantime. For instance, Smart fitness and health trackers, such as Apple watches and Fitbit, continue to evolve. As of 2018, Fitbit acquired a Boston-based software startup called Twine Health as they enhance their health-tracking capabilities. Apple is also rumored to be working on a needle-less blood sugar monitor, which also closely resembles the hypospray.
The Future is Today
In the words of Jim Kirk, captain of the starship USS Enterprise, our technological advancements continue “to boldly go where no human has gone before.”
From space travel, phasers touch screens, artificial intelligence, voice automation, virtual reality and various other technological or scientific advancements, technology has significantly benefited from Star Trek’s influence throughout the past several decades. In 2005, Stanford scientists were influenced by the high-tech visor that the blind engineer, Geordi, wore in Star Trek, the Next Generation, to help cure blindness. The researchers’ idea was to directly stimulate the layer underneath the dead photoreceptors using an apparatus closely resembling Geordi’s high-tech visor.
Over the years, researchers and developers have continued to find inspiration for new advancements from Star Trek and the series spin-offs. There are still several iconic devices that have not been fully conceptualized to date. Most notably, the transporter still eludes scientists over 50 years after the television debut. The transporter essentially breaks the atoms and molecules of the human body down at one location and then re-materializes them out of thin air at a new location. The notion of scattering a person’s atoms and molecules through the vacuum of space to “transport” the person in a matter of seconds might just be beyond our universe, but we’ve certainly come a long way with a number of other discoveries and advancements.
It’s not difficult to see how sci-fi has been driving force behind several scientific breakthroughs and developments. Many of the devices and household technological marvels that we depend on in our modern lives can be linked back to gadgets originally conceived in the mind’s of sci-fi writers.