It takes a creative mind to come up with a concept that has a practical use but doesn’t yet exist, and when it comes to envisioning the future, science fiction has always been at the forefront of what is yet to come. Many of these innovations simply couldn’t take shape until our scientific understanding had evolved to catch up with our imaginations. For that reason, many of those concepts first occurred in books, movies and TV shows. Here are 7 sci-fi inventions that aren’t science fiction any more…
Debit and Credit Cards
Credit cards are something that we can’t imagine living without now, but back in 1888 they were still the stuff of a madman’s dream. Still, there were people who had the foresight to see them coming, one such person being Edward Bellamy who wrote Looking Backward. He described a card that would allow people to spend money without using any physical cash. Actual credit cards wouldn’t come into being until 1966.
Nowadays tablets are everywhere, but where did these devices come from? While Apple turned tablets into something used by millions, the actual concept has been around for some time. Long before the first iPad, one of the first examples of a tablet was seen in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was first released in 1968. It would take over 30 more years for a fully functional device to materialise. Microsoft revealed its first tablet PC prototype in 2000, and while those early tablet PCs sold poorly, the concept was later proven to be sound. When the first iPad was released in 2010 it was seen as a major leap forward, and since then, tablets have become ubiquitous.
Who isn’t a fan of Back to the Future? From the Black & Decker food hydrator, to flying cars and hoverboards, what’s not to love? Still, while the aforementioned gadgets have yet to become a reality, the movie’s self-lacing shoes have finally come to pass. The first iteration of these iconic shoes was released by Nike as limited edition in 2016. Once they sold out, a second version of the shoes named HyperAdapt 1.0 was released, but be prepared to shell out a whopping 720 dollars for them!
Ocular implants such as the ones Geordi La Forge wore might not be so far-fetched after all. We are already fast approaching a point where prosthetic eyes will allow people to see again. Right now they’re imperfect and the signal they relay back to brain is very limited, but the fact that we can interface with a technology in this way is still pretty amazing. So far a company called Second Sight has had the most success with bionic eyes. Clinical trials of their devices began in 2002, and at the moment each prosthetic eye costs around 145,000 dollars.
Remember the days when big headphones were the only way to go? Well, working out with a big set of cans on your head isn’t your only option any more, since nowadays we have earbuds. Things weren’t always that convenient however. Back when a book called Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953, they envisioned a future where “little seashells” provided us with audio. Sound familiar?
Prosthetics have been around since the time of the Egyptians, but the notion that we could interface with our prosthetics and sense the world around us through touch has always been relegated to the realm of science fiction, such as Nog from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with his biosynthetic leg. But the technology behind this concept has already started to materialise, and we’re starting to see it take form in some of our newer prosthetic devices. Dennis Aabo Sørensen became one of the first people to take advantage of such a device in 2014, when he became the first individual to sense touch via a bionic hand.
The Cloaking Device
Cloaking devices make the visible invisible, and while this is something we might think impossible, it’s closer to becoming reality than you might think. The idea itself is quite an old one: one of the first mentions of the concept can be found in The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a story published way back in 1812. Today, however, we’ve come one step closer to making it a reality. In 2014, researchers developed a device called “The Rochester Cloak,” which manipulates light in such a way that it masks anything passing through it. Okay, we might be long way off from seeing the technology in any kind of commercial device, but it’s good to know that something that got Harry Potter out of trouble might be right around the corner!
Oliver Thiermann is the founder and CEO at theArcShapeR. Team leader by day and content creator by night, he always keeps an eye out for innovative ways to bring readers and writers together. Ollie is also an epic nerd, who hungers for all things Fantasy and Sci-Fi.