There is a Nostradamus in every Hollywood science fiction movie script writer. Many times, a new invention of technology was first seen on the big screen. From Jane Fonda's sexy space action heroine film "Barbarella" to Tom Cruise's cop-gone-rogue "Minority Report," movies have given us a glimpse of what lies ahead for technology advancement. Here are just a few inventions that sci-fi movies predicted:
Barbarella (1968): Skype
A cult classic, "Barbarella," a sexy, blonde space heroine played by Jane Fonda, sets out to stop the evil Durand-Durand (not to be confused with the evil '80s band Duran Duran) from upsetting the peace within the galaxy. In one of the first scenes of the movie—well, if you can focus your eyes off the very lightly dressed Barbarella—you'll see her furry-coated pad is equipped with a flatscreen TV that has the technology of two-way video feed, or what we know today as Skype.
Her flatscreen is unique, however, in that a Roman-style female statue is holding up the circular screen. When Barbarella gets an incoming video chat from the President of Earth, the arm of the statue opens up to make the screen bigger. And, even more futuristic, Barbarella's screen is double-sided so she can carry on the conversation from either side of the screen. We have yet to see that kind of technology, but maybe soon.
Flash Gordon (1980): Drones
When we were watching the football stud turned galactic hero Flash Gordon, played by Sam J. Jones, saving Earth and the universe, there was a scene where a lizard-like man tries to escape the confines of Emperor Ming's (Max von Sydow) palace-like spaceship. But, thwarting his escape was a flying robot that disintegrated the poor captive to oblivion. This was an introduction to drones, which instead of disintegrating us, now deliver mail to our doors.
We now live in a world where drones can accurately deliver a bomb—or mail, if you will—to our front doors. However, until drones are capable of not falling out of the sky because of a malfunction (which is an issue for the U.S. Government to deal with for military and public use), the threat of them showing up at your door to disintegrate you with a death ray is minimal.
Back to the Future II (1989): Wearable Tech
Here we thought Marty McFly in "Back to the Future II" looked a little ridiculous wearing those funky futuristic glasses. Those glasses provided him information and entertainment, which are now a reality for tech-savvy consumers investing in Google Glass. These glasses tap them into the Internet, GPS and stored music and videos. In fact, the movie predicted Google Glass' arrival almost to the exact year. The hands-free device became available this spring, whereas "Back to the Future" was set in the year 2015. Not bad.
While they arguably still look as funky on people now as they did on Marty McFly and are still a bit steep in the price, Google Glass is steadily improving its worth in the business aspect. For example, with the Skylight app, medical experts wearing Google Glass can allow students or other viewers to see what they see when assessing the status of a patient. The app Augmedix also is a helpful app through Google Glass, which allows doctors to record data into electronic medical records during a health exam.
Gattica (1997): Genetic Testing
In 1997, Ethan Hawke's character in "Gattica," Vincent Freeman, showed us the possibility of getting to know oneself better on a genetic scale. Today, the technology exists to allow a person to study and explore one's genes with at-home kits. With this technology, you can find a weight-loss plan that matches your genetic pattern or identify certain genetic flags that may hint to your vulnerability of heart disease or inflammation. In the film, Freeman assumes another person's identity using genetic technology, however, it's still illegal to do so, just like in the movie.
Minority Report (2002): Touch Interface
"Minority Report" is one sci-fi movie that shows a myriad of tech advances. One piece of technology that is now in our hands is touch interface. Seen throughout the movie, starring Tom Cruise, touch screens now are a staple with mobile phones, tablets and even PC screens. Oblong Industries, which helped set up the slick, futuristic glass touch screens seen in the movie, have technology that we can use now, which allows us to share data from one device to another with little to no effort. Using a combination of screens and motion sensors, data can be retrieved, displayed and moved through a high-speed network much like Cruise's character in the movie.
While these movies displayed unimaginable pieces of technology, the reality is that they are here. So what will science fiction predict that will be seen in our futures?
When humans first chiseled the wheel or learned to make fire, they probably didn't know the depth of their accomplishment. Through the goggles of time, we can see how these achievements have changed the face of humankind. Now we keep an eye on these things, predicting the outcomes of current astounding technological feats.
Integrated Circuit and Quantum Computer
In one of the original "Star Trek" episodes, Bones leaves a piece of equipment on a very impressionable planet. He is chastised by Kirk and Spock because this culture will take apart the device and learn about the one piece of technology that changed the Star Trek world and led to space travel. Our one piece of world-changing technology is the integrated circuit. The integrated circuit is a series of transistors, resistors and capacitors in a circuit to perform some operation. Specifically, it is the transistor, which replaced the vacuum tube, that is the most astounding.
Essentially, a transistor is a switch that goes from on to off. This simple switch is the basis for the central processing unit of a computer. Processor speed is distinguished by the rapidity that the transistors can toggle from the zero position to the one position. Since the beginning of the transistor, scientists have tried to make the toggle speed faster. Now the quantum switch seems to be a possibility. Since quantum leaps happen instantaneously, a computer using a quantum processor would be several orders of magnitude faster than our fastest computers.
Internal Combustion and Hydrogen Engine
The internal combustion engine is touted by The Atlantic as one of the 50 greatest engineering achievements of the modern age. Like the Internet years later, the combustion engine placed into automobiles transformed our culture, making the world smaller. The auto allowed us to sprawl without worrying for our jobs or our families. We are always a car ride away.
Automobiles have taken a special place in our society. No longer simply functional, the auto is our safety and our luxury. Now, we're in a position to move away from fossil-fueled cars toward renewable energy cars. On the horizon is the hydrogen engine. Still an internal combustion engine, the hydrogen engine uses canisters of hydrogen gas that react with oxygen to produce energy (and the byproduct water).
O-ring and Nano-Everything
Who would think that a ring of rubber would change the world? Yet that is what the o-ring did when it was invented in 1936 by Niels Christensen. Primarily an elastomer seal, o-rings are used in everything from the space shuttle to heart valves. Almost anything that needs to direct the flow of fluids has uses an o-ring.
Nanotechnology is the next big step in the o-ring's future. Because it sits at the perimeter of a moving fluid, the o-ring is the perfect substrate for microscopic devices that can measure blood flow, change the shape of the ring or ionize the fluid. If nanotechnology is the way of the future, the o-ring is where is will live.
Self-driving cars are coming. Currently four states — California, Florida Michigan, and Nevada — have passed legislation that enables companies to test their self-driving car technology on the roads. The Washington D.C. DMV published its regulations for autonomous vehicles in April, which are expected to take effect this month barring any objections.
Google unveiled a prototype of its self-driving car on May 27 and plans to use its home state of California as a testing ground. John Simpson, director of the taxpayer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, recently told the LA Times he's urging the California DMV to postpone the September 16 start date of its regulations by 18 months. The groups believes more testing and public scrutiny is necessary to ensure the safety of the state's 25 million licensed drivers.
Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons
A February Harris Interactive poll found that 88 percent of Americans would not feel safe in a self-driving car. But that reality isn't slowing down Google and others who want this futuristic technology to become reality for everyday drivers.
How It All Works
The "face" on Google's self-driving car (the headlights are the eyes and a radar apparatus the nose) is the first thing people will notice about its tiny exterior. But the fact there are absolutely no driver controls, such as a steering wheel and brake pedal, on the interior is what has many consumers worried.
A LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor called a Velodyne HDL-64E is mounted to the top of the vehicle. It provides a detailed map of the roads and surrounding environment, right down to potholes and road cones. Google Street View Cars have driven (and continue to drive) virtually every road in the U.S. and several European countries to create these detailed maps, despite lawsuits alleging the company has been simultaneously spying on residents.
There are four radars attached to the front and rear bumpers to detect the speed of cars in front of and behind the vehicle. A video camera is mounted where the rear-view mirror would otherwise be located. It detects the presence of pedestrians, other cars, and even deer running across the street. A GPS unit supplements all the aforementioned technology for further accuracy and safety.
A central computer located near the rear axle of the car then processes all of this information to determine and control steering, acceleration, and braking.
Advantages Outweigh Potential Dangers?
A widely circulated video of Morgan Hill, Calif. resident Steve Mahan "driving" a Google self-driving car to Taco Bell in 2012 was significant because he's 95 percent blind. Not only would driverless cars be a boon for 21 million legally blind Americans, they would also give elderly drivers whose reaction times have diminished more options when researching cars in a few years.
Cab drivers would likely balk at the idea of driverless technology, as drunken drivers would be able to get inebriated and still get home legally without paying a hefty fare. Elliot Garbus, of Intel's Automotive Solutions Division, told USA Today that 95 percent of auto accidents are caused by human error. Google reported in August of 2012 that its test vehicles had successfully driven 300,000 miles without even a fender-bender.
Autonomous cars would also be a blow to municipalities that rely on revenue from speeding tickets. Google reported in May that its self-driving cars have never received a moving violation in any state.
There is no definitive answer as to when consumers will be able to head to a dealership and buy an autonomous car of their own. But based on Google's persistence and diligence, it will likely be sooner rather than later.
Most people look forward to traveling to new, exciting destinations, but few realize that such adventures can also promote better physical health. Travel may even contribute to a longer life, according to the Global Coalition on Aging.
A poll by the U.S. Travel Association revealed women who vacation every six years or less had a dramatically higher risk of heart attack compared to those who vacationed at least twice a year. The men who participated in the poll and reported not making time to escape their day-to-day life at least once a year were found to have a 20 percent greater risk of early death.
Travel offers nearly endless benefits to the body and the mind
The benefits of travel don’t stop there. The Global Coalition found the majority of travelers experience a significant reduction in stress within just a day or two of their vacation, and 90 percent of travelers generally have a more positive outlook on life.
Traveling can even help create better relationships by bringing couples closer together and building memories that last a life time. If you’re single, you’ll have more opportunities to meet others while traveling. You’ll blend in better with the locals and get a better sense of the culture and what it’s like to live there, expanding your mind. Don’t put off travel just because you don’t have someone to go with; consider it a self-confidence boosting adventure.
Increasing your happiness level
Whether experiencing a different culture, foods, or new activities, travel also offers countless opportunities to learn something new. Any new experience can increase happiness levels. When traveling, you don’t have to look for ways to reinvent your day and break away from the mundane, it naturally happens.
Tools to make it happen
If you don’t happen to be independently wealthy, finances may be holding you back from enjoying your travel dreams. Saving for your next trip can be made much easier using Mint.com’s vacation budgeting tool to help you figure out how much money you’ll need for your vacation. It allows you to track finances on your smartphone and can even give you updates to let you know how close you are to accomplishing your goal. It also provides a projected date when you’ll be able to afford it for added motivation.
Once you arrive at your destination, the Travel Budget & Expense Tracker app for iPhone and Android helps you save money while you’re there. You can create categories and keep track of how much you’re spending, while the app does all the rest. It’s a great time saver that will also allow you to relax and enjoy your travels.
Preventing identity theft
One of the downsides to traveling is that your risk of identity theft goes up. Before heading out to your destination, it's recommended that you invest in services to protect against fraud in order to decrease your chances of having that fabulous vacation ruined before it’s even begun. If a thief steals your credit cards or other personal information, like a driver’s license, your identity could be stolen, which can be financially devastating.
When you’re out and about, be sure to take extra precautions to protect your wallet and purse. You should also be cautious with your smartphone. With so much information in one little gadget, it could also give a would-be thief access to personal and financial date in just seconds.