Science Fiction Turning Into Science Fact

I may be a poor graduate; but the savings are still on course to help me afford my Mattel Hoverboard in 2015. A mere three years to go and I can purchase the one item which ultimately captured my complete childhood amazement in Back to the Future.  I just hope they bring out one that isn’t pink because I want them to match my Nikes.

Aspirations of levitation aside, it’s astounding how many (so-called) fictional inventions are coming strangely close to existence. Technology is advancing at an astounding rate and inventions that seemed impossible in the recent past are being developed right now. Think about it this way: You’re reading this on a device that has more computing power than they used to land on the moon back in 1969. Imagine what can be done now.

As a wee nipper back in 1999 I watched, with teary eyes, Robin Williams as the Bicentennial Man, then in 2004 Sonny was helping Will Smith battle an army of evil robots and Marvin, with his brain the size of a planet has been taking people down to the bridge in A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since 1979. Now there’s a video advertising David, the android in Ridley Scott’s upcoming Prometheus that does rather make me want my very own Michael Fassbender… um… I mean, android. And then there’s ASIMO.

ASIMO is very much real. He walks, he runs, he climbs stairs (quite a feat for a robot, I might add) and he has many of the necessary abilities needed to interact with humans. He can recognise shapes, noises, faces and respond accordingly. ASIMO’s purpose is to interest young people in science and technology, he even had a show at Disneyland and there are much more powerful robots out there. There’s even a robot out there, memorably named HRP-4C, that can sing and dance better than your average X Factor contestant.

As well as robots we’ve also got holograms now, strangely enough making an appearance in the music industry. Tupac isn’t quite Princess Leia but I suppose he’ll do for now. His appearance at Coachella sparked excitement in the tech and music communities alike and really shows how technology that seemed to solely live in works of fiction is now making splash in the world of entertainment.

Then there’s personal computing. We’ve all got our smartphones at hand doing things that ten years ago didn’t seem possible in a device that size. Adding to my nerd credentials, I run Pokémon on my smartphone when as a kid I played it on my Gameboy Color which seems like a brick in comparison. Now our phones seem capable of anything. 

Augmented reality always plays a huge part in science fiction. Tony Stark, RoboCop, all of the Terminator models all use augmented reality to view the world. So science fiction has this tech, what about science fact? Oh wait, we’ve had heads up displays for years. Driving in a Honda Prius you can read the speedometer and fuel gauges on the widescreen, so your eyes never leave the roads. Then there’s Google Layar which uses your smartphone’s camera and gives you information about your surrounding area.

Bringing together augmented reality and personal computing is Project Glass. Google’s glasses that would struggle to seem any more like they’d been plucked straight out of a science fiction novel. The glasses put all your smartphone functionality, from messaging, photos and phone calls to weather apps and route planning onto a head mounted display… in layman’s terms… glasses. There’s a lot more to be done with the project but Google’s getting its patents down for the device and really pushing ahead with the technology since it was announced earlier this year. Add this to Microsoft Kinect’s capabilities and the possibility of a robot Butler and my future apartment is going to be mint.

Also I’ll have my hoverboard. Definitely my hoverboard.

Suzy Maggie Aldridge