So, if you’re like me, you’ve watched most of the seasons of Star Trek (and all of the movies) and oohed and ahhed at the technology of the future. If you haven’t – what are you waiting for? Get thee to Hulu!
So, in 2020, how close are we to actually getting our hands on some cool space-age gadget?
This is an easy one. Back in the 1960’s the little black boxes (that looked like flip phones) looked really nifty – and the range was unbelievable. One little voice command and someone on the ground could talk to someone orbiting over their heads – in space.
Nowadays – you can face time or use any other video technology to talk to pretty much anyone on earth from your smartphone – thanks to a network of orbiting satellites.
Verdict: Already here and maybe a bit better than make-believe (if you consider Instagram filters, that is.)
Now how cool was this innovation from Star Trek: The Next Generation? With a few simple programming steps, you could turn a room into an amazing 3-D virtual world filled with anything from a simulated warp-core engine to a bustling resort on an alien world.
Factoid for fans: Gene Roddenberry took inspiration for a holographic recreation room that appeared in the 1974 animated series from inventor Gene Dolgoff, who owned a holography laboratory in New York City that the Star Trek creator first visited in 1973.
In reality: People are using virtual reality headsets for everything from games, to conference calls, to military training exercises and even for physical therapy.
Verdict: Not quite there yet. While the headsets are useful and cool, many people get dizzy or even nauseous with prolonged use and sometimes the graphics can lag behind movement. So, for this one, the total immersion of the fictitious holodeck isn’t quite there yet.
‘Beam me up Scotty!” This common utterance usually resulted in Captain Kirk being broken down into sparkly molecules that were beamed through space and reassembled almost instantaneously. It sounds a little scary but is quite intriguing as well. Imagine that an hour-long commute could be reduced to seconds, or that you could dine in Paris – or outer Mongolia – whenever you wanted!
It’s actually, theoretically possible. In 1993, a team of IBM researchers led by physicist Charles Bennett confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. Yup, apparently the act of scanning something at the subatomic level disrupts the original such that the copy becomes the only surviving original.
So – basically – one could kind of imagine what happens if you teleport something multiple times (think what happens when you xerox a book page and then make a copy of the copy of the copy, of the copy, of the copy…)
And how about human teleportation? For a person to teleport, the teleporter’s computer would exactly map and analyze all of the trillion-trillion atoms in a human being’s body. Then this machine would have to send the atoms (and the person’s memories) to another location where yet another computer would reconstruct the person’s body exactly. With not a single atom out of place.
Even being off by a fraction of a millimeter would result in the person arriving with severe physical and neurological damage.
Verdict: Research actually continues, but we’re not even a little bit close. And after writing and re-reading the previous few sentences, I’m not sure I want to sign up to test anything in development. So: cool idea, might not even be possible (if you consider a little thing called physics.