When watching a sci-fi flick, moviegoers are often awed by the advanced technology and look forward to the future when such things as teleportation devices, cyborgs, and virtual realities will be the norm. While teleportation might not be around any time soon, a lot of technology people assume is science fiction has already become science fact. The future is here, and it arrived quietly and with little fanfare. Here are five of the incredible futuristic inventions you probably didn’t even know existed.
Leave it to Google to invent the first self-driving car. Using software very appropriately called Google Chauffeur, the cars drive around free of any human assistance. Google is constantly testing the cars, having at least a dozen on the road at any given time, and logging over 300,000 miles of safely proving that humans are becoming unnecessary. The only accident involving a driverless car was when a human was driving it manually, proving that robots are better than us.
Eternal data storage
Hundreds of thousands of years in the future, long after nuclear war inevitably decimates our society and nothing remains of our civilization but fast food (it’ll take more than a nuclear apocalypse and a few millenniums to destroy the last McDonald’s hamburger), future archaeologists will be digging through the rubble of our useless, degraded, unreadable technology when they stumble upon a perfectly preserved glass data chip. That chip was developed a couple of years ago by the Japanese company Hitachi and stores binary data in tiny dots within quartz glass. It is virtually indestructible, able to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions for several hundred million years. That’s right folks, we now have a way to ensure that the memory of our civilization will last forever, or at least until the dying sun expands and swallows the earth whole.
We’ve all watched a spy movie where facial recognition programs scan crowds, pick out a face, run said face through a database, and pull up that person’s file before you can bat an eyelid. While it helps to speed along the plot of a TV episode so the cops can catch the criminal within the hour, we all know that real police departments have to manually labor over grainy security footage or even actual paper files, and real investigations aren’t wrapped up with a neat little bow by the end of the week. Except that a San Diego police department does have a high tech face scanner that can pick a face out of a crowd, run it through a database of millions of faces, and find a match in less than a second. I don’t know whether to be awed at the advancement of technology or frightened at the impending omniscience of the government.
They say that you are more likely to be shot by than saved by your own gun, but one invention might turn that statistic on it’s head. A prototype called Identilock is a device that attaches to the trigger of a handgun and only unlocks it after scanning the user’s fingerprint. The Identilock is expected to go on sale within a year and only cost around $300. The idea of a biometric gun isn’t new; scientists have been trying to make one since the 90s, but the technology has taken a while to catch up to their ideas. There are now quite a few prototypes out there, and it seems only a matter of time before smart guns become commonplace. While the smart gun might take a while to catch on, hopefully one day all guns will be equipped with this high tech safety.
Oculus Rift is a virtual reality of sorts. It’s a bulky device (Wikipedia calls it a “virtual reality head-mounted display”, which sounds all manner of weird) with a 90 degree field of view and 1080p resolution that straps to your face and allows you to feel like you’re really in whatever landscape you choose. While it isn’t like the immersive virtual reality from say, Caprica, it is a start. The Oculus Rift will be released sometime in late 2014 or early 2015, and if you aren’t convinced that you need it, watch this charming video and you will be.