(Image credit Pixabay)
It may have taken place ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ but the tech is certainly futuristic, at least that’s how it’s portrayed in the popular Star Wars franchise but has that tech actually become a reality for us here back on Earth? It may not be so fictional considering a lot of Star Trek tech from the series have come to fruition in the last 30 years- mobile phones (communicators), 3D printers (replicators) and VR headsets (Holodeck).
While it’s true you could probably write a book on how much Star Trek technology has come to fruition in one form or another, the same can’t really be said for Star Wars. We are nowhere close to achieving the ability to hyperspace travel (or warp speed for that matter), a true lightsaber will never be developed and building the Death Star would require 830,000 years of continuous steel production and would cost $850-quadrillion (not including a power source). But we’re not here for ‘exact’ functioning replicas, are we? Nope, like Star Trek, we’ll take a look at some tech examples that are similar to those found in the Star Wars universe beginning with the all-to-familiar pod racers-
Aerofex Aero-X low-altitude flight vehicle. (Image credit Aerofex)
Luke sped around on Tatooine with his iconic land speeder, and although we don’t have anti-gravity technology, we do have the next best thing- air power, which makes Aerofex’ Aero-X hoverbike fly. The vehicle has been in development since 2008 and can carry two people 10-feet of the ground and maintain a speed of 45mph with 75-minutes of run-time on a full tank of fuel. According to Aerofex, “It’s a surface-effect craft that rides like a motorcycle - an off-road vehicle that gets you off the ground.”
While not exactly a Pod Racer, it does fit the bill of Land Speeder in a technical sense and has a bevy of outdoor uses, including surveying, search and rescue, ranching, aerial agriculture applications and disaster relief mobility among a host of others. Aerofex says it takes only a weekend to learn how to pilot the Aero-X and controlling the craft is similar to riding a motorcycle- use a pair of handlebars to navigate and lean into the turns. While there hasn’t been any word on production for the hoverbike, it’s supposed to be released in commercial form sometime this year (2017) for $85,000.
US Navy’s LaWS (Laser Weapons System) mounted on the USS Ponce. (Image credit US Navy via Wikimedia)
Blasters and energy cannons are a weapon staple in Star Wars for both troops and ships, and surprisingly, we have something similar in the form of laser weapons, such as the US Navy’s LaWS or XN-1 Laser Weapons System. Strangely enough, both blasters and the laser platform use light to destroy targets with Star Wars tech using ‘compacted particle beam energy’ while the laser platform uses amplified light. Both can also be adjusted in their intensity to produce more or less damage when fired.
The XN-1 LaWS was designed to handle both airborne and water-based threats, including taking down drones, frying sensor arrays and detonating explosive materials at ranges that are classified. It can also be used to ‘dazzle’ people’s eyes, causing temporary blindness or increase in power to burn through boat hulls and engines. The platform is essentially six welding lasers strapped together and can generate an estimated maximum sustained output of 50kW, however larger, more powerful laser weapons are currently in development.
Robots similar to Star Wars droids are becoming a reality. (Image credit pxhere)
Droids in the Star Wars universe are essentially functioning robots with a varied degree of AI. RD-D2 and C3PO for example, have distinct personalities and are able to think through on how best to perform certain tasks. While we are far from developing that level of AI, we do have robots equipped with rudimentary forms of intelligence with most designed for research purposes, such as RAIR’s (Rensselaer AI and Reasoning Lab) NAO robots with self-consciousness. These robots can ‘deduce’ through simple tests and predefined program parameters that they are self-aware. Of course, that’s the limit of their functionality, but it’s a good step into the burgeoning world of AI.
Other robots, such as Osaka University’s CB2 (Child-robot with Biomimetic Body) harness AI to develop social skills to better interact with the public. In the case of CB2, the robot uses onboard cameras to capture human interaction- in this instance, a mother interacting with her baby as well as facial expressions and uses that data to mimic them. The idea behind the mimicking is to allow robots to learn much like a human infant would, through what it sees. A far cry from R2 for sure but you have to start somewhere and considering robotics outfitted with AI is still in its infancy, the developments are promising and help outline a roadmap that will ultimately bring us the droids we are looking for.
These are just several examples of rudimentary Star Wars tech that has become a reality as there is a host of others that offer some interesting comparisons, including space travel and holograms. That being said, Star Trek tech still outnumbers Star Wars when it comes to the number of real-life technology examples. Perhaps it’s because Star Trek included engineers in their shows, inspiring viewers to pursue an education in one of the many engineering fields or maybe it was because some of that technology (at least in the original series) was already in development. Whatever the case may be, it’s still great to see that tech come to life from both series.
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