10 incredible technologies in development that mirror the realm of pop culture

6) Tractor beam (also seen in Star Trek)


Tractor beams have long been the fantastical trope in science fictions and pop culture, with its renowned application being showcased in Star Trek. As for the simple definition – a device is said to have a tractor beam if it is able to attract/move a singular object to another from a distance. In that regard, a team of scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Sussex have collaborated with Ultrahaptics, to basically invent the world’s “first” sonic tractor beam. Pertaining to the term ‘sonic’, this ingeniously-devised contraption has the capacity to lift and move 3D objects by using sound waves. In essence, the tractor beam in question here utilizes high amplitude sound waves that are able to produce what is known as an ‘acoustic hologram’. This physics-based outcome in turn can be used for lifting and moving the object.

In terms of the working scope, the researchers made use of an arrangement of 64 miniature loudspeakers that are capable of generating high-pitch (and high-intensity) sound waves. So when the sound waves are emanated by the tractor beam device, they surround the 3D object with high-intensity sound and sort-of create a force field. These ‘force fields’ in turn (regulated by the output of the loudspeakers) can either be used to keep the object in its place, or utilized to move and even rotate the body.


7) A ‘very’ strong laser (also seen in Independence Day)


A group of theoretical physicists at the Imperial College London has devised an entirely new technique that could enable lasers to heat certain types of materials to temperatures higher than the sun’s center, in less than 20 quadrillionths of a second. Recently published in the Nature Communications journal, the research unlike its pop culture counterpart in Independence Day (an alien superweapon used for destroying planets), could pave the way for new methods of power generation through thermonuclear fusion.

According to the researchers, the newly-developed heating technique would likely be 100 times faster than the world’s most powerful and energetic laser system, known as the National Ignition Facility, currently housed at California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The new mechanism, the scientists believe, could heat certain materials to over 11.6 million degrees Celsius (approx. 20.8 million° F), in a matter of a million millionth of one second!


8) The android with personality and memory (also seen in Ex Machina)


Meet Nadine, an affable humanoid robot with soft supple skin, beautiful brunette hair and most importantly a personality of her own. Created by scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), this highly-social robot can hold conversations with people, smiling and shaking their hands while doing so. In essence, the automaton, modeled after its developer Professor Nadia Thalmann, can be used as a personal assistant in homes and offices of the future.

Now from the technological standpoint, Nadine is much more advanced than conventional robots, possessing her own character, moods and also emotions. Unveiled on December 29 of 2015, by NTU’s Institute for Media Innovation, the 1.68-m-tall automaton is programmed to feel happy, sad or even angry, based on the kind of conversation she is having with the other person. But beyond just visuals and gimmick, the best part about Nadine arguably relates to how she is gifted with very strong memory. Simply put, she can instantly recognize people she has met before, and can also recall previous interactions – much like her pop culture android counterpart in the movie Ex Machina.


9) Self healing electronics (also seen in Terminator)


A team of researchers at the University of Texas have successfully created a self-healing electrical circuit that can not only repair itself, but also restore its own conductivity when broken into two pieces. The incredible attributes of this futuristic technology are by virtue of a pliant hybrid gel that combines two separate gel types into a single scope. These two gel types pertain to an arrangement where a ‘guest’ supramolecular gel (or ‘supergel’) is injected into a ‘host’ matrix of a conductive polymer hydrogel. To that end, the supergel accounts for the self-healing aspect of the circuit with its property of reversibility (with larger molecular structures). On the other hand, the polymer hydrogel improves the conductivity of the circuit – with its three-dimensional nanostructure that aids the flow of electrons.

As for the testing phase of this futuristic technology, the scientists did manage to place thin films of this hybrid gel on flexible plastic substrates (‘wafers’) – and the results were pretty impressive. More importantly, as we mentioned before, the electrical circuit could heal itself even after being broken into two pieces. These factors have encouraged the researchers to continue on developing ‘better’ versions of such gels with greater strength and flexibility – thus alluding to the possibility of commercial manufacturing.


10) Bionic Lens (also seen in a plethora of pop culture fictions)


Dr. Garth Webb, the CEO of Canada-based Ocumetics Technology Corp, has developed a new type of bionic lens that enables patients with impaired vision to see three times better, without having to undergo any kind of agonizing surgery. Aptly called Ocumetics Bionic Lens, this completely painless implant goes far beyond the standard 20/20 vision, thereby giving patients near-superhuman eyesight in less than eight minutes. Yes, you read that right – eight minutes!

To that end, unlike regular contact lens, this specially-developed Bionic implant requires a simple eight-minute procedure, similar to cataract surgery. Each of these lenses is custom-made, and comes folded in saline solution. Once it is injected directly into the individual’s eye, the lens unrolls and takes its place over the eye’s natural lens in less than 10 seconds. According to Webb, immediately after the procedure, the patient’s vision gets corrected, leaving him or her with perfect enviable eyesight. But of course, there is always the passage of testing. And if everything goes according to plan, the Bionic Lens will be available for sale in Canada no later than 2017.


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