Sometimes it seems like the inventions found in our science fiction books, movies, and games will never be a reality. Then I remember that we are living in the most innovative time period in human history. Every week there are new discoveries, new inventions, and new technological advances that are shaping the world around us.
After recapping some of the most futuristic inventions from around the world, I’ve realized that there are some things that exist today that science fiction enthusiasts could have never dreamed of. Of course, there are some things that are being researched or invented simply because they existed in science fiction. And you know what? That’s fantastic. The future is now, and I’ve never been more excited.
10) Motorola’s Edible Password
It can be tedious to remember so many different passwords for your phone, work email, your regular email, social media accounts, blogs, Netflix, and, well, pretty much every other online service you use on a regular basis. If you’re either tired of trying to remember numerous passwords that need to meet ridiculous password requirements, or if you’re tired of people being able to guess your super-easy password to log onto your Facebook account to post an embarrassing status, you should hear about Motorola’s new password pill.
Without getting into the technological mumbo jumbo behind the invention, Motorola has essentially developed a pill that is easy to swallow (thank God) and also sends out small signal to the devices that your body is coming into contact with after soaking in your gastric juices for a short period of time. The pill will, for lack of better words, turn you into your own password beacon for all of your accounts when you swallow the pill.
The pill has already been tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it works as intended. It’s even been deemed medically safe to swallow up to 30 pills per day! Regina Dugan, former director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and current senior vice president of Motorola’s special projects team believes that this new technology will make traditional usernames and passwords obsolete. “Authentication is irritating,” Dugan said. “After 40 years of advances in computation, we’re still authenticating basically the same way we did years ago.”
And it’s time for a change, don’t you think? How amazing would it be that whenever you get a new phone/laptop/tablet/watch/whatever it would automatically sync with a signal being omitted from your body! You wouldn’t have to go through that hassle of logging into everything all over again.
9) Robots Are Running Factories
As you probably already know, as technology has developed it has made factories more productive than they could have ever been in the past. While this has typically been viewed as a good thing because as our population continues to boom we need to create more and more goods than ever before, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that there is some sort of robotic production in almost every factory environment. But what should come as a surprise is that there is an entire factory that runs unsupervised for about 30 days at a time.
FANUC, a Japanese robotics company, has been running a “lights out” factory since 2001, with their operation previously unknown by the general public. This changed when the company started looking for more investors, and other clients to buy their products.
The robots working at FANUC factories are making robots to work at other factories around the world. While there are human workers to oversee the work of the robots, typically the robots are able to manage themselves. The company has expanded and now has 22 lights out factories, where robots work 24 hour shifts, every day of the week. The robots can also perform their tasks without heat and air conditioning, which is another expense the company is able to cut back on. These types of workers are every employer’s dream.
But FANUC isn’t the only company to do this. In the Netherlands, Philips uses lights out factories to produce electric razors, with 128 robots purchased from Adept Technology. There are only 9 human quality control workers in the factory.
Is there anything more futuristic than a factory run completely by robots for 30 days at a time?
8) Hoverboards Exist, Somewhat!
Yes! They exist, somewhat! Though the hoverboards aren’t anything like you imagined them to be when you were a child, and they don’t even compare to the hoverboards seen in Back to the Future. Hell, you might not even consider them hoverboards when you see them, but they totally are.
The Hendo Hoverboard, seen in this video where Tony Hawk rides one:
…made its debut in 2014, for the low price of $10,000. But hey, it’s a goddamn hoverboard. This means we’re living in the future, right?
Wrong. Though it technically is a board that hovers about an inch off the ground, the Hendo Hoverboard has a few flaws. These flaws include, but are not limited to, the fact it costs $10,000, the fact that the board is extremely loud, you can only ride it on a particular type of material, and the fact that the battery only lasts 7 minutes. But, to be fair, the first time a brand new gadget is invented it is always incredibly expensive, and as equally disappointing. This is (potentially) the start of a lot of innovation in this particular field of technology.
The Hendo Hoverboard relies on technology already existing, found in maglev trains, that use opposing magnetic forces between the board and the surface which allow the board to hover. Since the board uses magnetism to keep itself afloat, the board is restricted to levitating over a surface made of non-ferromagnetic conductors, such as copper or aluminum.
The creators of the board, Greg and Jill Henderson, said that their focus wasn’t to primarily make a hoverboard, but rather to draw attention to the technology that we have now, and apply that technology to areas we would have never thought of. The couple believes that the technology could one day be used to make buildings better able to withstand earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters by floating them out of harm’s way!
7) Actual Warfare Is Resembling Video Games
“It is a lot like playing a videogame,” a former Predator drone operator told an artist named Omer Fast. “But playing the same video game four years straight on the same level.” This is coming from a military operator who has admitted that his drone strikes have killed people, and sometimes, he kills the wrong people. So, why did he say that drone striking militias in a foreign country is a lot like playing a video game? Because it’s designed to be.
Boeing’s newest invention for the U.S. Army is the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator. Sounds badass, right? It is. Anyway, when designing the machine, Boeing wanted to make the device as user friendly as possible, and in the words of a Boeing representative, “something that the soldier doesn’t have to go to school to learn…that he knows how to use instinctively.” Because that’s what you want. You want the guy using his gut instinct to operate the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator.
Boeing decided that it would be best if the controls for the weapon were, well, an Xbox controller. Similarly, when Syrian rebels hacked a tank a few years ago, they set up the controls of the machine gun to be operated by someone using a PlayStation controller. If this doesn’t settle the console war, I don’t know what will. If you prefer Xbox, you’re the U.S military, and if you’re a Syrian rebel, you prefer PlayStation. It’s as simple as that.
The reason that the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator can be controlled by an Xbox controller is on this list is because there’s really nothing more futuristic about warfare than someone treating it like it’s some sort of game. *cough* Like in that sci-fi movie, Ender’s Game *cough*
6) Multiple Types Of Bionic Eyes Exist
I’ll tell you about two different bionic eyes that exist today. While they are still in the early stages of development, one is admittedly way cooler and way more futuristic than the other, so I’ll start off by talking about that one.
Dr. Garth Webb, an optometrist from Canada, invented what he calls the Ocumetic Bionic Lens, and says that it allows patients to have perfect vision no matter how horrible your eyesight currently is. The procedure would be painless and similar to a cataract surgery without all of the flaws, such as having a hard time seeing with glares, as well as seeing at night time. The lens, which looks like a tiny little button, would improve human vision three times beyond what is considered perfect. For example, if someone could read a clock at 10 feet away, they’ll be able to read the clock at 30 feet away!
It may sound like a snake oil remedy, but at a conference Dr Garth Webb presented his lens to 14 top ophthalmologists from around the world and they were absolutely amazed by his design. Though clinical trials on animals and then humans are pending, you can expect to see this invention hit the market as early as 2017! So while you can’t purchase this cheap solution yet, becoming part terminator isn’t far away.
The second type of bionic lens is something that you can sign up to buy today if you have an absurd amount of money and you aren’t concerned about having perfect vision. The bionic lens receives visual information from a small camera mounted on glasses worn by the patient. This information is converted into electrical pulses and transmitted wirelessly to electrodes attached to the patient’s retina. These electrodes stimulate the retina’s remaining cells which send the information to the brain. So while you can’t see perfectly, someone who previously had little to no vision will be able to identify shapes and patterns in the world around them, which is still very cool!
5) Self Driving Cars Will Be Everywhere In 2020
There are numerous companies, such as Mercedes, BMW, Tesla, and even Google, that have released or are currently working on self-driving features that give the car the ability to drive itself. It is estimated that as these cars roll out of the factory and onto the roads, driving will become a whole lot safer than it is today. In the U.K. alone, an estimated 2,500 fewer deaths will occur between 2014 and 2030 as a result of self-driving cars.
However, while having some self-driving features is cool, people are starting to get really excited about having completely driverless cars. One of these people (besides me) is Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who said that he will literally buy as many driverless cars that Tesla can produce in the year 2020, even if they produce as many as 500,000. This, of course, would be to transform Uber from somewhat of a poor man’s taxi company into a company that has an armada of self-driving taxis. However, despite what Uber wants to happen, it is unlikely to actually happen, but it isn’t through the fault of car companies.
The reason you should expect a series of delays with the production of driverless cars has to do with a the slow legal process rather than the technology not actually existing. The technology exists, and Google has some of the best driverless cars developed at the moment. In fact, driverless Google cars have driven hundreds of thousands of miles in total, in varying road and weather conditions. That said, the technology isn’t quite perfect yet, but it will be soon. A Google report revealed that between September 2014 and November 2015, there were 13 cases where the driverless car would have been at fault for an accident, had the human in the car not intervened in the situation. Again, not ideal, but they still have a few years to work out the kinks.
There are a lot of controversial issues that arise with self driving cars. For example, if the car gets into an accident, who would be at fault? The person that owns the car, or the company who sold a faulty piece of technology to an unknowing consumer? It is questions like this that is going to make passing the legislation for these vehicles very, very slow.
4) Wi-Fi Hotspots Are Replacing Payphones
As part of a $200 million project known as LinkNYC, three tech companies (Qualcomm Inc, CIVIQ Smartscapes, and Intersection) working together under the name CityBridge are going to revolutionize New York City. By July, 2015, the project will have replaced 500 payphones throughout the city with hotspots that anyone can use whenever they want. The goal is to replace 7,500 currently existing payphones with hotspots around the city.
The hotpots will sit on a 9.5-foot tall box with electronic screens on each side to display different advertisements. Between the sidewalk ads, an android tablet will be available to be used )for free) to place phone calls as well as surf the web. Of course, only time will tell how fast these hotspots get destroyed, or the tablets in them get stolen.
CityBridge promises that the Wi-Fi will deliver broadband speeds of 1,000 megabits a second, which is roughly 100 times typical speeds provided by other wireless carriers. But perhaps best of all, users won’t be forced to sit through any advertisements on their mobile devices after they sign into one of the hotspots for the first time! “This is creating all kinds of competition,” said Colin O’Donnell, CityBridge’s chief technology officer. “This is going to set a new standard for speed, drive pricing competition, and set new expectations for data caps.”
Who knows, maybe now you’ll be able to get a phone plan that doesn’t suck.
3) We Can Grow Organs In Labs
We’ve been able to grow organs for a few years. We’ve been able to create livers, skin, heart tissue, limbs, and my personal favorite, penises – because who doesn’t want a new penis to mix things up in the bedroom? But, most recently, scientists have been able to create fully functioning kidneys inside of a laboratory.
Takashi Yokoo from the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo lead the team to create an innovative laboratory grown kidney. While scientists have been able to make kidneys in the past, they have been unable to create kidneys that were able to filter urine as safely and consistently as a real kidney can…until now, of course.
The scientists created new kidneys with a special drainage tube and a bladder to store the urine until it was absolutely ready to be fed into the bladder. This lab grown kidney, technically known as a stepwise peristaltic ureter (SWPU), was successfully transplanted into the recipient’s urethra.
Like all great scientific feats, the transplants were first tested in rats, and the organs were working just fine when the researchers decided to check up on the rats eight weeks later. From there, the researchers repeated the procedure on a pig, and achieved the same results. Human trials are expected to begin in the next few years. If everything goes as well as it did during animal trials, humans in need of a kidney will no longer need to wait for someone to donate their organ to them! Instead, scientists can grow them their very own, custom kidney!
2) Chemists Have Created 100% Renewable Plastic
While plastics are viewed as a green alternative to other, non recyclable forms of packaging, the material is actually causing quite a problem around the world. Each year, 10-20 million tons of plastic finds itself in the Earth’s ocean in a total estimated 5.25 trillion plastic fragments, weighing over 268,000 tons. This plastic results in an estimated $13 billion each year from damage that is done to the Earth’s ecosystem. Obviously, this is a problem. So naturally, someone way smarter than the average person came up with a solution.
Eugene Chen, a chemist at the Colorado State University, has done what the scientific community had theorized was impossible. Chen and his partner, Miao Hong, disagreed with the scientific community and after much experimentation, created something that is entirely renewable and biodegradable. The creation is said to have amazed scientists around the world, solved a major pollution and waste issue in the world, and is bound to revolutionize the field of bioplastics in the years to come.
I won’t bore you with the details, because frankly I am not a chemist and would be horrible at explaining the scientific process, but essentially Eugene Chen created a plastic out of something that scientists said couldn’t be done, and this new plastic is more environmentally friendly than the plastic we use today. He was awarded the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award as a result of his discovery.
1) New Eyedrops Can Fix Blurred Vision
Earlier in this article we talked about some futuristic, terminator-esque surgeries that you can have to correct your vision, no matter how blind you are. If you’re not a fan of surgery, or if you can’t afford the expensive surgeries required to fix your version, there is still hope for you and your vision.
Long story short, cataracts are what cause people to have poor vision. Cataracts happen when lens proteins called crystallins begin to twist in the wrong way and clump together. Normally, these proteins are supposed to keep the lens of your eye transparent, but as they clump together they begin to blur your vision. Since you’re only born with so many crystallins thanks to your genetics, your eyesight gets worse and worse as you age. However, scientists have created a molecule, only known as “chemical 21” that is able to dissolve clumps that have formed and help prevent other bundles from forming – essentially removing the cloudy lenses, or signs of cataracts from the eyes of the animals that chemical 21 has been tested on.
The chemical can be easily applied as an eye drop on patients, and this discovery is seen as a great leap forward in a simple, affordable, solution for the 20 million people around the world that suffer from severe cataracts who are unable to afford treatment.
Oddly enough, despite the animal trials yielding positive results scientists have absolutely no idea why chemical 21 is responding as positively as it is in repairing the crystallin proteins.