Since Star Trek first aired in 1966, the science fiction series has not only captivated countless fans, but has also repeatedly predicted technological innovations that have since become part of our everyday lives. In this article, we take a look at some of the most fascinating Star Trek technologies that have since become reality.
Communicators and cell phones
The communicator was one of the first Star Trek devices to capture the public’s imagination. The small handheld devices allowed characters to communicate with each other, regardless of their distance. Today, there are cell phones and smartphones that allow not only voice calls, but also text messaging, email, video calls and more. The design of the flip phone of the late 1990s and early 2000s was even directly inspired by Star Trek communicators.
Tablet computers and PADDs
In Star Trek, so-called “personal access display devices” (PADDs) were used to retrieve and store information. These flat, portable devices with touchscreen controls have amazing similarities to today’s tablet computers, such as the iPad. Although tablet-like devices existed before the invention of the iPad, Star Trek certainly contributed to the popularization of this gadget concept.
In the world of Star Trek, the universal translator allows instant translation of languages so that characters of different species can communicate with each other. Nowadays, there is real-time translation technology such as Google Translate that facilitates understanding between people of different languages. While this technology is not yet perfect and instant translation of complex languages is sometimes difficult, we have nevertheless come close to the Star Trek concept of universal translators.
Language Assistants and Artificial Intelligence
The ship’s computers in Star Trek, especially the “computer” of the USS Enterprise, were able to respond to spoken instructions and questions. Today’s voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant can perform similar functions, though not yet to the extent and with the intelligence of the Star Trek computers. Still, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in voice assistants is a clear step toward Star Trek’s vision of the future.
3D printing and replicators
In Star Trek, replicators allowed us to create objects from scratch by rearranging matter at the atomic level. While we are not yet able to create objects in this way, 3D printing has made tremendous strides in recent years, allowing us to create three-dimensional objects from a variety of materials. From plastics to metals to biological materials like living cells, 3D printing has the potential to fundamentally change the way we make and consume things. Although 3D printing has yet to reach the capabilities of a Star Trek replicator, we are getting there.
Holography and Holodecks
In Star Trek, the holodeck was a room that created holographic environments and characters realistic enough to interact with. Today’s virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are not as advanced as the series’ holodecks, but they still offer immersive experiences that are impressive. With the advancement of VR and AR headsets, as well as holography technologies, we could one day enter a world very similar to that of Star Trek holodecks.
Tricorder and medical diagnostic devices
In Star Trek, the tricorder was a multifunctional handheld device used for medical diagnosis, among other things. Today, we have various portable and non-invasive diagnostic devices that perform similar functions. Examples include portable ECG machines, glucose meters for diabetics, and portable ultrasound machines. Although our current medical devices do not yet have the same range of functions as the tricorder from Star Trek, they are still a step in that direction.
The world of Star Trek has provided us with fascinating visions of future technologies, and many of them have now become reality. The series has not only influenced the development and popularization of new technologies, but has also inspired generations of scientists and engineers to work on realizing these visions. While we have not yet implemented all of Star Trek’s technologies in our daily lives, progress in many areas shows that the future Star Trek predicted for us is getting closer.