10 sci-fi technologies we are close to having

From Star Trek to The Jetsons, futuristic technology depicted in sci-fi movies and TV shows has made it into the real world. Here’s a look at 10 that are on the brink of becoming reality.

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10 of the coolest sci-fi tech that are almost a reality

Science fiction TV shows and movies are filled with cool technology. From Star Trek and its transporter and food replicator—to name just a couple of things—to The Minority Report and its air touch displays and jet packs.

Some of that futuristic technology has arrived. For examples, “push to talk” mobile devices are very close to Star Trek like communicators. And the video conferencing depicted in The Jetsons is now available on nearly every home computer.

Other visionary technologies are almost here. The following slides are 10 of the coolest sci-fi technologies that we are oh so close to having.

sci fi tech then now Dick Tracy watch
Wesley Fryer via Flickr, Thinkstock

Dick Tracy Watch

Detective Dick Tracy had some fearsome enemies, including Mumbles and Pruneface. Helping the secret agent was his trusty watch, which seemed to do everything. It was a two-way radio, had a video display and seemed to be a mini computer. Today, we have a wide range of smart watches ranging from FitBit wearables to Pebble smart watches to the Apple iWatch. (Image credits: Wesley Fryer via Flickr and Thinkstock)

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Wikipedia (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Knight Industry Two-Thousand (KITT) Automobile

If you were a geeky teen in the 80s like I was, there was no cooler piece of technology than KITT. It was a highly modified TransAm, which was cool in its own right. But add in the fact that it had its own Terminator-like cybernetic processer and Cylon-like lights that went back and forth across the dash, and the geeked-out cool factor was through the roof. KITT talked to Michael Knight, helped fight crime and came on command. While there are no cars that can do all of the things KITT did, Tesla vehicles are certainly on their way to having KITT-like functionality. (Image credits: Wikipedia)

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Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid

I’m sure we would all love to have a robot maid to help us with daily tasks. The Jetsons’ maid, Rosie was a great maid and housekeeper and sometimes provided advice to the family. However, in some sci-fi shows, the robots come back to attack humans. One example is in Battlestar Galactica where Cylons were created to help humanity with menial tasks but rose up and rebelled and nearly wiped out all human kind. So, go ahead and get your iRobot vacuum or use Amazon’s Echo and Alexa for home automation, but keep an eye on them in case they become self-aware and decide to attack you in your sleep. (Image credits: Hanna-Barbera and Wikipedia)

sci fi tech then now universal translator
CBS Television Studios, Google

Star Trek’s Universal Translator

Have you ever travelled to a foreign country and not been able to talk to someone because of a language barrier? Now take that challenge, and put it on a galactic scale where you need to communicate with creatures from planets where no one has gone before.

One solution is to have Star Trek’s Universal Translator that allows both parties could speak the language of their choice and understand each other perfectly. This comes in especially handy when being hunted by the Gorn or awaiting sentencing on the penal planet of Rura Penthe.

That technology exists today in the form of Google’s Translate mobile application where one can put any text in and have it give you the translated text. It can even translate from pictures. Microsoft and Cisco have also demonstrated real-time speech translation. The only flaw with these apps is they don’t speak Klingon, Romulan or Gorn. (Image credits: CBS Television Studios and Google)

sci fi tech then now Smell-O-Scope
Fox Broadcasting Company, PEO ACWA via Flickr

Futurama Smell-O-Scope

Thousands of years from now, Professor Hubert Farnsworth uses the Smell-O-Scope to smell a huge pile of trash on a collision course with Earth. The crew of the Planet Express ship, Old Bessie, went out and saved the planet. Yay! With the Smell-O-Scope, Farnsworth claimed that if a dog crapped anywhere in the universe, he would know. Think of the power of this.

In our world, the Denver Police are using a similar device called the Nasal Ranger Field Olfactometer. This, plus a “stink map,” can find pockets of extensive stinkiness from pot smokers. The interplanetary capabilities don’t exist yet, but the Smell-O-Scope is alive and well. (Image credits: Fox Broadcasting Company and PEO ACWA via Flickr)

sci fi tech then now hovercraft
Pop Culture Geek via Flickr, MA Hoverbike

Star Wars Landspeeder

If you live on the desert planet of Tatooine, there may be no better way to get from Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s farm to Mos Eisley to find a smuggler than by travelling by Landspeeder. Other “hover” vehicles were also available, including the ones used by Luke and Leia to shoot down Storm Troopers and the forest moon of Endor. If you’re looking to travel by hovercraft, U.K.-based Malloy Aeronautics is working on a hoverbike and is looking to crowd-fund the project. (Image credits: The Community – Pop Culture Geek via Flickr and Malloy Aeronautics

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CBS Studios Inc., Wikipedia

Star Trek Next Generation Holodeck

The greatest sci-fi franchise ever, Star Trek, brought us many cool inventions. One of them was the Holodeck where Next Generation crew could go to blow off some steam and pretend they’re in the Wild West, or they could use the technology to simulate real-life scenarios. While the Holodeck was used in the Next Generation, I would argue that the Kobayashi Meru test was a predecessor to the Holodeck.

While we don’t have quite that capability yet, virtual reality glasses such as Oculus and Microsoft Hololens give us that Holodeck-like experience. Just don’t forget to leave the safeguards on! (Image credits: CBS Studios Inc. and Wikipedia)

sci fi tech then now jetpack
Lucasfilm Ltd., Wikipedia (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

Jango Fett jetpack

If you’re the most ruthless bounty hunter in the galaxy, one of the core pieces of gear you need is a jetpack to fly over dangerous situations and apprehend bad guys. The jetpack was critical in Jango’s defeat of the rogue Jedi, Komari Vosa, and win the contract to be cloned and become the prototype for the clone soldiers, which eventually became Storm Troopers.

Jetpacks aren’t science fiction today. The Jetlev-Flyer uses water to shoot the person strapped into it straight up in the air. This would have worked on the Star Wars planet of Kamino, as the entire surface was covered with water. One big flaw with the Jetlev-Flyer is that it has no missiles like Fett’s jetpack. (Image credits: Lucasfilm Ltd. via Wikipedia and Jetlev via Wikipedia)

sci fi tech then now minority report air touch display
Cruise/Wagner Productions, ITRI Electronics and Optoelectronics Research Laboratories

Minority Report air touch display

Chief John Anderton ran the pre-crime unit in the Washington, D.C., area. Anderton obviously had the benefits of having PreCogs working for him, but he still had to do a bunch of analysis and work on the computer systems. The success of PreCrime was based on speed of information and analysis, and Anderton didn’t have time to mess around with traditional keyboards—or apparently to look down. At his disposal was a cool computer that used a heads-up display and air touch technology.

A number of companies now make solutions where the operator wears goggles and sees a virtual display in the air, such as i-Air Touch glasses. Users can tap the air, like Anderton did, to use the system. Now all we need is a few PreCogs, and PreCrime will be born. (Image credits: Cruise/Wagner Productions and ITRI Electronics and Optoelectronics Research Laboratories)

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Star Trek food replicator

“Tea, Earl Grey, hot!” I can hear Jean-Luc Picard now as he uses the Enterprise’s food replicator to generate a cup of tea. When a crew goes out on a five-year, or longer, mission to explore new civilizations, people are going to get hungry, and taking years’ worth of food for hundreds of people just isn’t practical. The solution is a food replicator that can generate whatever food you want.

Today, there are 3D printers that can print food. TNO has collaborated with Barilla to make 3D-printed pasta, and Natural Machines is working on creating the Foodini.

No Earl Grey tea yet, but it’s just a matter of time. (Image credits: CBS Studios Inc. TNO)