Status Report: The Gadgets of Science Fiction

Either sci-fi film directors in the past were strangely prophetic, or the entire field of science is really just made up of geeks trying to recreate “Star Trek,” but for some reason there is quite a selection of gadgets available ripped straight from science fiction. From smartphones, to bluetooth headsets, to good old fashioned space ships, the amount of technology available that was once reserved for fictional far off worlds is quite impressive.

Yet for all of the progress made in the field of science fiction to science fact, there are a few notable items that are still not quite widely available as of yet. Tired of waiting (I blame this insta-result technology fueled world we live in) I’ve decided to check back in with some of the greatest sci-fi inventions of all time, and see where real life is in producing their equivalent.

Virtual Chess Board

In The Movies – The virtual chess board has made appearances here and there, but its spotlight moment has to be in “Star Wars” when R2-D2 played Chewbacca in a game. The game may not have exactly been chess, but it did show us two things. That chess would be much cooler if the pieces were homicidal holograms, and that you always let the wookie win.

In Real Life – While video games have been giving us virtual chess matches for years, we’re surprisingly behind as a society on recreating the physical experience. In fact, I had a tough time finding anything that comes close to the “Star Wars version” we are all familiar with, as that picture up there is just an LED set of chess pieces designed to give off the illusion (fooled ya). While several companies are investigating the potential for hologram technology (not to mention that Tupac thing), this is one seemingly simple (in comparison to some of the other items on this list) sci-fi invention that is lagging behind.

Laser Guns

In The Movies – There are too many incidents of laser guns in the movies to keep up with. From “Star Trek” to “Star Wars,” almost every science fiction work that feature shoot outs features lasers. Why? Well not only are they flashy, cool, and look better for the camera, but they’re really flashy, pretty damn cool, and look great on the camera.

In Real Life – Not surprisingly, while we are lagging on the recreation of  a holographic chess board experience, we’re well ahead of schedule on deadly laser projectiles. The army has several deadly prototypes available, but I’m more impressed by what’s being done on the civilian level. Particularly by the team down at

And to think respected scientists have been wasting their laser research time on medicine.

Hover Board

In The Movies – Of all the impressive technology in the “Back to the Future” series (like you know, time machines), the most beloved has been the hover board from “Back to the Future Part 2.” Scheduled to be made by Mattel, the hover board is a hovering skate board that theoretically allows for hours of fun, and provides the perfect escape against a gang of future hooligans (the deadliest hooligans of them all). Although if you want to go over water, you need power. You need a Pitbull.

In Real Life – While Mattel is working on a hover board replica, the exact hovering capabilities of the board are currently sketchy at best (we know it still can’t go over water for one thing). However, all hope is not lost as French artist Nils Guadagnin has actually created a real, hovering model.

It uses electromagnetism and laser stabilization to create the hovering effect, although it sadly does not support a persons full weight. However, as the end of the video demonstrates, putting some force on it remarkably still keeps it afloat.

Oh, and while we’re on “BttF” tech, lets not forget those awesomely expensive limited edition self lacing Nike shoes.


In The Movies – Well, technically in the TV show. A popular staple of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the holodeck is essentially a virtual reality room that allows for any number of simulated people, objects, or scenarios. Troy Barnes and Abed Nadir of “Community” also created a similar model. But that one was merely fueled by imagination, and a generous amount of orange tape.

In Real Life – I gotta say, I didn’t think there would be an equivalent to what may be the most fantastic sci-fi invention ever created. However, I forgot about the potential of the Xbox Kinect. The number of inventions that Kinect hacks have led to is quite frankly astounding, and I’m about to show what may be the coolest one. It comes from Microsoft research, and uses a combination of the Kinect along with projector and sensor equipment to create a virtual projection that essentially allows for real time manipulation of the area it shines on.

I basically have no way of properly describing this one. It’s not quite the holodeck, but it’s definitely the coolest thing on this list, and you have to watch the video to come close to comprehending it.

Terminator Machines

In The Movies – “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.” – Sergeant Techcom Kyle Reese, DN38416, 132nd

In Real Life – Well, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that the field of robotics has come pretty far as a whole. Fortunately though, all of the advancements in robot technology have still not led us to a future of humanoid looking killing mahcines.

A company called Boston Dynamics is looking to change that though with an invention they ironically call “Petman,” even though it looks like it could make a pet of mankind quite easily. This robot can run the treadmill and do push ups with frighteningly capable ranges of movement and intensity. Oh, and fair warning. Once you’ve seen it run up a set of stairs, you’ll likely never sleep again.

Co-Ed Showers

In The Movies – Not an invention per-se, but quite the popular sci-fi idea. Featured in title like “Robocop” and “Starship Troopers,” it appears that in the future all shame of nudity has disappeared in favor of a open flesh forum, where men and women share a locker room, and the once dreaded communal shower area.

In Real Life – Good old Germany is actually, apparently down with this is certain areas. While some shower and lockers rooms allow for men and women to share a common, but still separated locker room area,  some saunas actually allow for both sexes to hang loose and let it all hang out.

Again not really a sci-fi invention per se. However…I just thought I’d let you know.


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