Updated: Dec 14, 2021
An autonomous aerial vehicle whirs through the sky on its way to a much-awaited event. The vehicle user checks the time with his glasses and sends a neural message to his friends already at the party. While this futuristic and outlandish technology may seem like the perfect utopia of your wildest dreams or straight out of Star Trek, you may be surprised to know that many of these contraptions are already in existence, to some degree. That’s right; technology of the future is the reality of today.
Harry Potter, a popular novel character, often wears an invisibility cloak and traverses Hogwarts unnoticed by all of his professors. Amazingly, this magic has been transformed into an intriguing science by the folks over at HyperStealth Biotechnology Corporation, headquartered in British Columbia, Canada.
The HyperStealth cloak is more similar to a large sheet of transparent paper, but its versatility is still nearly unrivaled. In theory, it can hide anything from people to jets to planes, using lenticular lenses, which are sheets in which each ridge has an outward facing lens. These externally directed lenses can refract light around objects. HyperStealth found out that if lenticular lenses are formatted in a certain way, it renders the object behind the sheet invisible. These lenticular lenses are not a new invention. They are made for pedestrian uses as well, such as certain trading cards that look different when you tilt them (for example certain Pokémon or baseball cards).
Furthermore, this sheet works against infrared and ultraviolet imaging and requires no power source to operate. Of course, it is not completely invisible. Faint traces of the object behind the sheet are still visible. These invisibility cloaks would be invaluable in military secret operations that require ultimate stealth. However, the technology can be used in everyday life, as well, like LiDAR and solar panels. The technology looks promising already, so it will only grow in versatility over time.
There are countless movies and books where a character has a mind implant which either limits thoughts or aids in instantaneous information. Harrison Bergeron is a well-known dystopian short story by Kurt Vonnegut, based on the premise that everyone is equal in every way, whether it is intelligence, strength, or flexibility, controlled by a chip in the brain. Another book, Ender’s Game tells of a chip implanted in the main character's brain to monitor intellectual growth. Either way, the “chip in your brain” is a staple of modern science fiction.
This technology is the closest it’s ever been to reality, thanks to Elon Musk’s Neuralink. Elon Musk has founded a lot of companies, including Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company. However, Neuralink may be the most ambitious and impactful of them all. Neuralink aims to connect humans with artificial intelligence. To begin with, they want to connect brains with a smartphone and work their way up to more sophisticated devices to provide maximum computing power. Elon Musk says that this company was designed specifically to combat the raw strength of AI, which can rapidly evolve and develop into the characters of nightmares. AI can pose a threat at this stage of development, and therefore the input of that same AI in the human brain would offset robots. Stepping away from the realm of dark science fiction, Neuralink will also be able to treat brain ailments like dementia, depression, and anxiety. Although Neuralink seems quite scary, hopefully humanity will not have to cross that bridge.
In the superhero blockbuster Iron Man, Tony Stark has a futuristic display embedded in his helmet that shows all of his necessary information and helps him fight the antagonists. Heads-up displays (HUDs) are becoming a thing of reality. Although our HUDs may not be of much use when fighting supervillains, they can be uber-useful on a day-to-day basis.
HUDs use a feature called augmented reality (AR), which is somewhat similar to virtual reality (VR). AR uses your device’s camera to project virtual items into the real world, as opposed to VR, which creates an entirely new world. There are already apps out there that allow you to use AR for a wide variety of uses, from games to furniture to measuring distances. Heads-up displays like Tony Stark’s are currently mostly used in glasses, which provide digital overlays in your vision to assist in activities throughout the day. Some of these overlays can include a weather application, a to-do list, calendar events, incoming calls, and so much more.
Evidently, the space for AR glasses has potential and could revolutionize phone communication, only limited by the functionality of embedded glass displays. Who knows? Maybe AR technology will become so advanced in the future that we will be able to embed it into our eyes and mix this technology with the brain computer interface mentioned earlier.
Nanotechnology is also a very common topic in science fiction. Nanotechnology, however, is not confined to movies and books. Carbon nanotubes, or CNTs for short, are miniscule cylindrical objects made of carbon, or graphene, to be precise. Because graphene is only one atom thick, these graphene strips, rolled up into a cylinder, are extremely small and thin. Carbon nanotubes have a mechanical tensile strength 400 times that of steel, are ⅙ as dense, and have better thermal conductivity than a diamond.
Due to their immense strength and minute size, carbon nanotubes have a huge amount of uses, including energy storage, automotive parts, electromagnetic technologies, and biomedical appliances. Carbon nanotubes, mixed with manganese, create something called a nanocoil, which has been proven to help in the cleanup of microplastics in the ocean. In the biomedical sector, carbon nanotubes are used to deliver drugs and genes to certain organs or tissues and can even assist in tissue regeneration. However, graphene, the parent product of carbon nanotubes, is also a powerhouse in its own respect. Graphene has huge potential in the energy department, where it can redefine batteries by making them more efficient and charge devices more quickly. Graphene can also make faster transistors and semiconductors to create better and faster technology. Carbon nanotubes and graphene together are easily some of the most disruptive technologies today.
Teleportation is ubiquitous in science fiction. The popular phrase “Beam me up, Scotty!” is from Star Trek in which a character requests to be teleported back to a spacecraft. For a more recent example, Doctor Strange, a popular Marvel superhero, can create magical portals to the other side of the Earth, resulting in instantaneous travel. Currently, teleportation is not possible with matter, but it is with information.
Quantum teleportation consists of three particles. Two of the particles are entangled, while the other teleports its “state” to each of the other two. Quantum entanglement, to put it in simpler terms, is when all of the properties and states of one particle are directly linked with the properties and states of another, even when the particles are at a large distance. This may seem confusing, but it’s important to just bear with it as it is a fairly new technology. In this way, information in the form of particles can be instantly “teleported” to somewhere else. This discovery is incredibly useful in the quantum computing field, where every nanosecond matters.
Wormholes are another part of science fiction that perpetuates teleportation of humans and other objects. In Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, he believes that wormholes can exist theoretically, although to this date scientists have yet to observe one. Wormholes are also somewhat confusing, but they can make more sense if a napkin is pictured. A napkin that is folded and has a hole in it after folding can be unfolded to show the holes separated. People believe something like this happens on a galactic level when it comes to wormholes. The creation of wormholes ties into the rest of the complex science involved in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, such as the space-time continuum warping around objects of immense mass, which is actually quite interesting. Either way, teleportation is definitely happening on the molecular level, and other forms may work in the near future.
Many science fiction technologies are not that far away from reality. Whether it is teleportation, invisibility, nanotechnology, heads up displays, or brain computer interfaces, assiduous scientists all over the world are working hard to bring them to the public.
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Alexander, D. (2021, February 19). Invisibility Cloaks Are No Longer Just Science Fiction.
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Breakthrough Technology for the Brain. (n.d.). Neuralink. Retrieved from https://www.neuralink.com/
Berger, M. (n.d.). Carbon nanotubes – what they are, how they are made, what they are used for. Nanowerk. Retrieved from
Affairs, NSF Public. (2020, July 6). Is teleportation possible? Yes, in the quantum world. National Science Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=300854&org=NSF&from=news