Boldly Go with These 5 ‘Star Trek’ Technologies That Actually Exist
High-tech gadgetry on par with this sci-fi phenomenon may be closer than you think.
In September, the sci-fi phenomenon Star Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary. While the television and film franchise does not always get its high-tech gadgets right (teleportation device, in our dreams), Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, must have gotten stuck in a time warp and visited the 21st century as many Trekkie technologies aren’t so much future fantasies as they are present realities.
While you’re waiting for the U.S.S. Enterprise to beam you up, read on to discover five examples of technology you don’t have to wait 300 years to see.
#1 WARP DRIVE
Star Trek coined “warp drive,” a hypothetical faster-than-light propulsion system. While this speed may only be possible (for now) in TV and movies, Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird is the world’s real life, fastest and highest-flying manned aircraft.
"Designed and built in the 1960’s, the Blackbird could sustain speeds faster than the sound barrier for hours."
When it completed its retirement flight from Los Angeles, California, to the East Coast in 1990, the trip took just 67 minutes. While that’s not exactly warp-speed, it’s certainly the closest the human race has ever come.
#2 LASER WEAPONS
Who can forget the line, “set your phasers to stun”? While today’s laser weapon systems are too large to carry by hand like the Star Trek phaser, their capabilities are versatile.
Three benefits of laser weapon systems are their beam quality, pinpoint accuracy and endless magazine of “bullets.” The best part? Their speed. Laser weapons can defeat enemy threats at longer ranges. Take that, phasers.
#3 AUGMENTED REALITY
By the 24th century, all Starfleet vessels were equipped with holodecks, augmented reality facilities used to recreate familiar places for practicing skills. Changing the way intergalactic crews (and earthlings) interact, learn new skills and do work, augmented reality instantly transports users to a virtual environment.
In the 21st century, we use augmented reality to virtually transport astronauts and warfighters to simulated environments to conduct training. By inserting computer-generated scenarios that engage all senses over a live scene, we’re able to better prepare soldiers to respond to realistic battlefield scenarios and train astronauts to repair spacecraft components that haven’t even been built yet.
Augmented reality simulations save time, money and even lives because they show people how to solve virtual problems before they become real problems.
"In the 21st century, we use augmented reality to virtually transport astronauts and warfighters to simulated environments to conduct training."
Capable of materializing objects – primarily any food imaginable – at the push of a button, replicators might just be our most coveted Star Trek intergalactic technology. Here on Earth, engineers have developed their own form of a replicator, 3D printing.
While 3D printing can’t get you a cup of coffee on a whim like a replicator, it does allow ideas to become reality faster than ever, and it saves money in the process. At Lockheed Martin, manufacturing lines for products like fighter jets and spacecraft are increasingly using additive techniques to produce prototypes, tooling and flight-ready parts. There are already complicated 3D printed parts flying aboard spacecraft that were created as part of our manufacturing process.
#5 SURVEILLANCE AND RECONNAISSANCE
The Command, Control, Computer and Communications Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems are the nerve center and brains of a ship.
The U.S.S Enterprise collects and displays its sensor and communications data so the crew can make intelligent decisions. Captain Kirk commanded a lone vessel in a vast wilderness, but today’s tactical, operational and strategic commanders can rely on C4ISR systems that provide a total operational picture.
Now that you know the basics, test your knowledge on which technologies are science fiction vs. reality.