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Star Trek Tech That Exists Today 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-are-my-self-sealing-stembolts dept.
Esther Schindler writes "When Star Trek hit the air waves, talking computers were just a pipe dream. While teleportation remains elusive, several once-fictional technologies are changing the way people live and work. Here are some ways in which we're approaching the gizmos that Star Trek demonstrated. Speech recognition? Check. Holodeck? Sort of. Replicator? Workin' on it."
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Star Trek Tech That Exists Today

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  • iPhone (Score:4, Informative)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:18PM (#41317133) Homepage

    What about the white iPhone 4 [mrericsir.com]?

    • Now I'm more interested in getting a version of the bot holding it!

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        Now I'm more interested in getting a version of the bot holding it!

        ...you mean the Android holding it?

        • by vlad30 (44644)
          Thats Android Dallas Data edition a reasonable copy of the iOS1138 from a few years before. Both find the type of owner they like the main difference that iOS1138 will bend you over and take your wallet from behind and spend all the credits, while Dallas Data will simply deep throat your man-bag not realising you don't have any credits to pay for any services
        • Aha! Proof that Androids rely on iPhone to get stuff done!

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:19PM (#41317141)

    Most of the example are not really very much like Star Trek "tech" at all... And what's that Space Shuttle looking thing? Made out of powdered American cheese?

    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:38PM (#41317381)

      But they leave off the ones that have actually been realized. Communicators the size of a lapel pin were wild conjecture at the time of the original series. Automatic doors were a new idea. I'm sure there are other examples of 'Star Trek Tech' that we completely and utterly take for granted today.

      • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:57PM (#41317587)

        But they leave off the ones that have actually been realized. Communicators the size of a lapel pin were wild conjecture at the time of the original series.

        And these actually exist in real life. One of the hospitals in my home city uses a Vocera [vocera.com]communication system. You press your lapel button, say the name of the person you want to talk to, and it opens a fucking communication channel between the two of you.

        People overlook the simple things. I thought the most impressive part of Iron Man was the AI. "Holy fuck, his computer is telling a joke when it's not helping him design a suborbital flight suit." "Now it's bringing up the files on everyone he's flying past?"

        • And these actually exist in real life

          I see. So if you're in a building you can tap it and chat with someone on a spaceship in orbit, using no other infrastructure, even if they're not geosychronously over you. Cool.

          • Actually, I could probably whip up something that would let you do that with a small add-on. I've built satellite communicators before.

        • by the gnat (153162)

          I thought the most impressive part of Iron Man was the AI.

          Perhaps, but I thought it was much less far-fetched than those staples of sci-fi, the extraordinarily compact energy source and propulsion system, both of apparently unlimited power, which give off nearly no waste heat.

          • I thought the same thing with Dr. Octopus. "Never mind his fusion flameball thing or whatever the fuck it is, he could get billions off the patents in the manipulator arms and the power source that he's running THOSE with. Hell, each of those is Nobel material on its own."

            I know, shh, they're comic books.

        • by crossmr (957846)

          All the pictures seem to show something much larger than that in them.
          they've got this big things hanging around their necks.

          The reality is very little has been realized. Speech recognition is still hit and miss and it also doesn't quite function like it does in the show. In the show they could be having a conversation and then access the computer. the magic in the show was that they could use the word computer without the computer going "what what what?" every 10 seconds.

          Perhaps if you analyzed voice stres

      • We've had automatic doors dating back to at least WWII, and I wouldn't be surprised if daVinci had designed some.
        • by neonKow (1239288) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:17PM (#41317765) Journal

          Hey, I played Tomb Raider, and I can definitely tell you the ancient Egyptians had automatic waist-height axes. Slap some doors on them, and you have automatic doors!

      • by iamhassi (659463)

        But they leave off the ones that have actually been realized. Communicators the size of a lapel pin were wild conjecture at the time of the original series. Automatic doors were a new idea. I'm sure there are other examples of 'Star Trek Tech' that we completely and utterly take for granted today.

        I hate these articles, someone makes one every year and they always stretch what we have to try and fit star trek. Yes, we have cellphones and bluetooth and ipads, so we're doing pretty good at catching up.

        I'm more interested in what we have that star trek didn't have. Tiny wireless cameras? We have that, star trek didn't, and how useful would that be instead of "Data what do you see? Data? Hello? Someone? Are you guys getting killed over there?"

        Or GPS? They had no idea where people were.

        Wi

        • by jeremyp (130771)

          Or GPS? They had no idea where people were.

          They had the capability to pinpoint the away team with an accuracy sufficient to teleport them back to the ship from anywhere on the planet without leaving any bits behind or inadvertently picking up bits of other bystanders or objects.

          Wireless heartrate monitors? We have that, they didn't.... well, I think the medical bay had something they would use, so the doctor could monitor you if you were very sick, but how useful would it be on away missions to check heartrate to tell when someone's nervous or scared? So many more uses they didn't touch.

          Doctor McCoy had a little device that looked like a car cigarette lighter that could diagnose virtually any disease non invasively.

          • They had the capability to pinpoint the away team with an accuracy sufficient to teleport them back to the ship from anywhere on the planet without leaving any bits behind or inadvertently picking up bits of other bystanders or objects.

            That was an ability of a ship to accurately scan the planet surface and locate objects of interest.

            When you mention GPS to me, my first thought is the ability of surface or air unit to accurately calculate it's own grid position with minimal input from outside sources.

            T

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:00PM (#41317615)

      Teleportation remains elusive

      That's really neither here nor there

      • by iBod (534920) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#41318539)

        Indeed.

        When I was a kid I used to fantasize about a future where the would be teleportation booths on every street corner.

        You'd walk in, pop some coins in the slot, dial your destination then whoooooooo.....

        I live in the UK so the teleportation booths would be run by BT, Vodafone, O2 or possibly Virgin. I imagine that you could get an off-peak tariff to be able to teleport anywhere in the world after 6pm.

        Trouble is, your head would arrive at the intended destination but your limbless and bloody torso would arrive somewhere in Cairo and your assorted arms and legs would be buffered indefinitely, only to ve lost for all time once they reboot their server.

        • Indeed.

          Trouble is, your head would arrive at the intended destination but your limbless and bloody torso would arrive somewhere in Cairo and your assorted arms and legs would be buffered indefinitely, only to ve lost for all time James Doohan had a Q and A session with the audience at the very first Star Trek con, held in Manhattan. I was a goofy teenager then, so I goofily asked Scotty , "When you transport people, what keeps them from materializing with maybe an arm sticking out of their stomach?". It got a laugh from everyone, and Mr. Doohan too. And he assured me that the computers safegaurd against such a thing. So, you can sleep well tonight knowing that. :-)

        • Presumably you have read Bester's The Stars My Destination [amazon.com]? Jaunting (personal teleportation) is somewhat like that.
  • There was a TV show about technology from star trek that is around today, cell phones, medical equipment, etc... Shatner did some of the narration, but I never knew the name of it and never spent more than a cursory look on google/imdb for it. What was this show? Where/when was it aired? Thanks.
  • Chicken Pot Noodle.

    There's no chicken in it.

    It's textured soy protein.

    Much like food cubes.

    'Scuse me, I think I hear a fly screaming...

  • It goes both ways. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aurashift (2037038) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:27PM (#41317259)
    This article made me think of all the technology that came before Star Trek. I'm not an old timer, but you had sliding doors and turbolifts (A.K.A. elevators) back before the sixties didn't you?
    • Can someone mod this guy up? Not sure why he has negative karma... I don't see anything in his posting history to suggest he's a troll.

      If it makes you feel better, you can mod me down while you mod him up.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Turbolifts are only very superficially like elevators.

      They are more similar, I believe, to escalators in that they are always ready to board. When a person gets on a turbo lift and the door closes behind them, another person can board the turbo lift immediately afterward, and they can move in the same direction, or another one. They do not need to wait for the lift that the previous person took to arrive.

      Turbo lifts are like an elevato

      • by ppanon (16583)
        Turbolifts also move horizontally as well as vertically (I got the USS Enterprise plans as a birthday or Christmas gift in the 70's). They're actually closer in concept to a computer-controlled subway system using elevator-sized cars that can move individually, vertically, and horizontally. As you point out, the computer ensures that empty cars are always available for boarding by routing spare cars to replace occupied ones departing from stations. Since occupants don't appear to be affected by directional
        • by mark-t (151149)
          The only significant technical problem that I can see with trying to make something like a turbolift actually work is if multiple cars are wanting to go to the same destination, and are arriving there at about the same time. If one particular spot is a popular dropoff zone at a particular time of day (say, the cafeteria near dinnertime), then a queue could end up getting created that could easily be just as bad (if not worse) than a normal single-car elevator system.
          • They factored that into the show. Why do you think getting from say the bridge to deck 10 would take 10 seconds in one episode, and half a minute on another?

            It's like it bumps your lift's priority down and moves slower if it detects an engaging conversation going on, when the occupants aren't standing awkwardly in silence.

  • Pipe Dream (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beardydog (716221) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:29PM (#41317287)
    If by "pipe dream" you mean computers were synthesizing speech five years before Star Trek came out, then sure.
  • Good to see a deep link to a non-commercial (at least, non-ad-revenue-based) website. The list provided was interesting, too; it covered some topics I didn't expect (3D printers as replicators? OK, sort of..), and skipped some of the worn out ones (ion drives, flip phones that look a bit like TOS communicators).

  • by ThorGod (456163) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:37PM (#41317363) Journal

    Look, until we can whip matter up to our exact specifications, we can't rightly say anything we're doing is remotely similar to a "holodeck".

    Sorry but fancy images on a 2D or pseudo-3D screen aren't what they're hopping about in TNG/DS9.

    • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:58PM (#41317593)

      What we're missing is force fields. I think that's how holodecks are supposed to work - holograms bordered by force fields.

      • by ThorGod (456163)

        What we're missing is force fields. I think that's how holodecks are supposed to work - holograms bordered by force fields.

        It's supposed to be a "mix" of force fields, holographs, and actual energy to matter conversion, IIRC. Perhaps holographs/force fields to simulate distance and open spaces, with actual matter for the close up stuff. So a holographic person is like computer controlled meat-puppet.

        • I don't think they ever moved anything out of the holodeck, and when it lost power everything vanished. If there was actual energy to mater conversion, wouldn't the meat-puppets stay behind/could be moved out of the holodeck?

          • by lexarius (560925)
            In one of the first episodes of TNG (the very first one, I think) the energy to matter conversion thing was mentioned. Wes fell into a pond in the holodeck, and then walked out still covered in water. They may have forgotten about this later, but it was in there initially.
      • by Namarrgon (105036)

        We don't even need force fields, just programmable matter. Check out Utility Fog [wikipedia.org].

    • Look, until we can whip matter up to our exact specifications, we can't rightly say anything we're doing is remotely similar to a "holodeck".

      A RealDoll and a 65" flatpanel? Close enough.

  • by ad454 (325846) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:43PM (#41317429)

    The Star Trek trek that I thought was the most futuristic was the Personal Waste Transporters that would automatically beam out solid, liquid, and gaseous human waste, plus dirt, oil, etc.; which eliminated the need for toilets, showers, etc. from Star Ships and Away Missions.

    Strange that in Star Trek, they could beam away all of the bad stuff from their bodies, but would still need to eat and drink in traditional fashion.

    Prior to the Waste Transporters, I don't want to even think about how rough Klingon toilet paper would have been, Vulcan deodorant which requires mental discipline to ignore orders, or the poor quality of a Ferengi tampons that fall apart.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Strange that in Star Trek, they could beam away all of the bad stuff from their bodies, but would still need to eat and drink in traditional fashion.

      Naah it was full of anachronisms where they loved to play musical instruments by hand to each other, I think there must be dozens of plays put on by the crew... Food is "fun" for the crew and cooking is even better... think Neelix on Voyager, much as we all try to block him from our memories.

      Also about 90% of the holodeck episodes that were not about basically holopr0n involved travel into the past. That goofy car restoration project toward the end of voyager.

      It was a generally backward thinking, backward

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      The Star Trek trek that I thought was the most futuristic was the Personal Waste Transporters that would automatically beam out solid, liquid, and gaseous human waste, plus dirt, oil, etc.; which eliminated the need for toilets, showers, etc. from Star Ships and Away Missions.

      I don't think that's quite right. They just never showed bathroom use. Their Replicators would turn their waste (bio and non-bio) into whatever they wanted "via converting mass to energy to mass."

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      The Star Trek trek that I thought was the most futuristic was the Personal Waste Transporters that would automatically beam out solid, liquid, and gaseous human waste, plus dirt, oil, etc.; which eliminated the need for toilets, showers, etc. from Star Ships and Away Missions.

      Eh? TNG onwards had sonic showers, and there was a door to the bathroom right off the bridge of the Enterprise D.

      Then again, Trek regressed in many ways. I mean, given how crews get thrown about and how panels explode, you'd think they

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        The whole panel exploding thing was always pretty stupid. There's no reason to have that much power running through a console that's only there to provide a user interface. How much power is running through your keyboard, mouse, or LCD monitor on your desk? I was disappointed they kept that silliness up in several TNG episodes.

        I must have missed the bathroom on the bridge though, and I've been watching TNG episodes fairly regularly lately on Netflix. Where was that? It'd be nice if they had occasionall

        • I may be wrong, but with artificial gravity, you don't get knocked around in space like that. Your ship is in zero gravity, when the ship is hit, the impact is negated since the ship has an independent gravity.
          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            I think that's incorrect. Whenever the ship accelerates or decelerates or gets hit by a photon torpedo or something, there's going to be a force applied to the ship, and to the things and people inside. Sure, if the ship isn't moving, there's zero-g, but the ship moves around a lot, changing its speed. And because of the enormous acceleration this ship must be capable of in order to get anywhere in a decent amount of time, it has to be far, far beyond the g-forces the human body can withstand (the humans

        • by Ash-Fox (726320)

          The whole panel exploding thing was always pretty stupid. There's no reason to have that much power running through a console that's only there to provide a user interface. How much power is running through your keyboard, mouse, or LCD monitor on your desk? I was disappointed they kept that silliness up in several TNG episodes.

          The concept behind it was that the circuitry was actually plasma that was pumped around the ship. Plasma is an excellent conductor of electricity, allowing for more efficient routing

    • In case you haven't noticed, people tend to enjoy eating and drinking in a traditional fashion. No amount of future technology will change that.

    • Didn't the Ferengi have a contract with the US military in the 20th century? It would explain a lot of things.
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:43PM (#41317437)

    More important:

    Tribbles
    Romulan Ale and synthehol
    Green skinned orion womens
    Space Hippies
    Hand held Hypo sprays full of tranquilizers (There are non-hand held ones available since the 70s)
    Pesky GD "son of a chief medical officer" ensigns
    Skin tight leotards as a women's businesswear. Microskirts as traditional women's businesswear.
    Holodecks full of amorous versions of your female coworkers "I am the goddess of love" or whatever that line was.

    Now that I think of it, you keep all that dilithium stuff and just provide the leotards and mini skirts.

    • Skin tight leotards as a women's businesswear.

      On the west coast, yoga pants are considered business casual. There's probably a reason for that, but I don't care because... because yoga pants.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Holodecks full of amorous versions of your female coworkers "I am the goddess of love" or whatever that line was.

      NO! HELL NO! You CLEARLY don't work where I do.

  • Automatic sliding doors.

  • by DickBreath (207180) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:50PM (#41317519) Homepage
    The combination of the Internet and mobile devices have worked to bring us some things Star Trek could not have forseen very well.

    How about instantly (text or voice) searching almost the entire corpus of human knowledge, from a hand sized device that you carry in your pocket. Instance access to the entire world's knowledge. Up to the moment sports, stock, weather, news, etc. And while we can complain about Wikipedia, it is generally very useful. Or try searching for a disease, or drug.

    Instant video from around the globe.

    Video chat in real time with anyone anywhere. Voice texts back and forth. Email. Twitter.

    Star Trek failed to forsee Facebook Stalkers(tm).

    Turn by turn navigation. (New to the iPhone!)

    Tablets -- those are real now, and better than they were on Star Trek.

    How about a 32 GB tiny SD card or USB sticks instead of those painted blocks of wood handed around on Star Trek? They called them "tapes". I don't think they could have really appreciated how much storage we have in something so tiny you can lose it in your pocket or fit inside a thimble.

    Some of us have set up voice controlled home automation. Or more commonly home automation without voice control. It's not especially exotic technology. It is relatively affordable, but was but a dream in the 1960's. And remotes? They're everywhere.

    On demand and streaming video? TiVos? Stream Netflix to your phone? eBooks?

    The list goes on. It's not all things realized or envisioned in Star Trek. But the things we commonly have today, like a Raspberry Pi for $35 are things that were totally science fiction back in the 1960's, and some of it even in the 1980's. Even when ST:TNG was made, a $35 Raspberry Pi or an Android Phone or a 32 GB micro-SD card for $20 would have been much more than amazing.

    When I was a kid, we had to use punched cards. And it was uphill both ways! Get off my lawn!
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      You have some inaccuracies and red herrings here.

      ST:TNG did foresee instant searching of the entire corpus of human knowledge. Didn't you notice all the times they just ask the computer to compile some list of a bunch of obscure facts (like "ships lost in this sector") and narrow it by various parameters? They show the ship's computer having all kinds of data many times on the show. The old series of course didn't do quite as well here, but I thought I remember some similar things with them asking the co

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:10PM (#41317703) Homepage Journal

    Communicators: DUH! Motorola even named the first Flip-phone the "Star Tac" -- how did the author miss this OBVIOUS one?

    Bluetooth headsets: See those chrome things coming out of everyone's ears on TOS?

    3.5" Floppies: Pretty much the EXACT same form factor, and painted as brightly as the "rainbow assortment" of disks I used to buy a Staples. They were called Tapes in TOS, but they fed into a slot and appeared to work exactly the same way.

    A Space Vehicle named Enterprise : ok, this one is reaching a bit since that Shuttle never went into space, and this is a case of life imitating art, but still.... it's worth noting.

    iPads -- tablets: TNG had the PADD, which tied into the LCARS system. Even before then Kirk in TOS was seen holding some kind of electronic clipboard, although it was never really shown on camera as the tech didn't exist back then to even fake a tablet, but the idea was clearly getting there.

  • Here's what amount to basically the entire article in far fewer words:

    No, we don't have most of the tech. In fact we have very little. But here's some stuff we can handwave for page views. We can't show nekkid ladies, but "Star Trek" anything always gets page views.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @11:50PM (#41320143) Homepage

    Outside of computing, not much Star Trek technology works. Antigravity? We have no clue. Fusion or better power sources? Still struggling. Transporter? No clue.

    In the 1960s, the previous 50 years had led to enormous gains at the high-power end of engineering. Aviation had gone from the Wright Brothers to the Saturn V. Power generation had gone from local steam plants to mammoth dams and nuclear reactors. Ships had gone from coal to nuclear power. The 1964 World's Fair had a General Electric nuclear fusion exhibit with actual brief bursts of fusion. It was generally expected that such progress would continue in the next 50 years.

    It didn't.

  • The Language abilities of Star Trek computers are extremely advanced compared to today's latest and greatest. Of course most of the things in this article are only inklings, on their way but nowhere near what Star Trek showed. But I find many people are fooled by the usefulness of Siri et al. into thinking that real language processing and synthesis is only N years away. Talking with Siri is like using an old text adventure game: you put in words, it filters those and matches them to a small set of comman

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