10 Inventions Inspired by Science Fiction
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10 Inventions Inspired by Science Fiction

Scientists may be bright, but they aren’t
the only people capable of thinking up cool inventions. In fact, sometimes inventors need a little
inspiration from those with less technical know-how. Although we’re still waiting on the hoverboards
from Back to the Future, many of our biggest and most unexpected achievements in technology
have come to us thanks in part to out-of-the-box ideas spawned by science fiction authors and
filmmakers. 10. The Flip Phone While it’s hard for many of us to remember
a time when people weren’t so attached to cell phones, mobile devices haven’t always
been permanent staples. Nor have they always been sleek and convenient
— in 1996, Motorola made an effort to improve the cell phone industry by offering the StarTAC
flip phone, a small, stylish alternative to other mobile devices. It bore a strong resemblance to the clamshell
communicators on Star Trek and was the first cellular phone to provide a vibration mode. It was also the lightest phone on the market
at the time. Although StarTAC users couldn’t quite play
Angry Birds, it was a huge improvement from existing technology. Martin Cooper, Motorola’s director of research
and development, said that the objective in creating the first mobile phone, released
in the 1970s, was to create a design similar to that of the phones on Star Trek. Which, ironically, are now vastly inferior
to our own. 9. The Taser Long gone are the days when police only used
Tasers to incapacitate hooligans. Inspired by a concept Jules Verne proposed
in the 1700s, Taser International’s wireless projectile Taser shotgun bullet is truly something
out of science fiction. However, even the standard Taser has sci-fi
origins. Jack Cover, inventor of the Taser, was inspired
by science fiction stories produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a company that churned
out books for young adults. Their stories featured several inventions
that later became realities, such as the “photo telephone,” or modern fax machine, and a
“house on wheels,” which predated the modern mobile home. Cover figured that if authors could invent
something, so could he. “Taser” is short for “Thomas A. Swift’s
Electronic Rifle,” a homage to a character in one of Cover’s favorite novels. Without the Stratemeyer Syndicate and authors
like Jules Verne to excite researchers, we might not have devices like Tasers. 8. Tablets We’ve all seen someone flicking through
a tablet computer in public over the last few years. However, tablets were thought of long before
they really existed. Star Trek: The Next Generation featured touch-based
tablets called PADDS, short for “personal access display devices.” Sound familiar? They resemble the tablet computers we use
today. However, the show’s art director, Matt Jefferies,
created the tablet-like PADDS as an improvisation because his department had a small budget. Throughout the course of the show the device
remained believable, as everything it could potentially do was a product of high-tech
software. Like the tablets of today, Star Trek’s mobile
computers featured smooth hardware and impressive software. However, since they weren’t really functional,
the PADDS’ visuals were primarily accomplished through editing. As a result, simple tasks that seem like second
nature to us today, like zooming in and out on an iPad, took time in post-production. If only tablet computers existed when The
Next Generation was produced, the show could have saved time and money in the editing room. 7. Universal Translators Today, anyone can whip out a smartphone, select
the right app, and have a passable conversation with a stranger in just about any foreign
country. However, universal translators have permeated
science fiction for a lot longer than they’ve actually existed in the real world. In 1945, Murray Leinster’s novella First
Contact was one of the first stories to boast instant universal translators. Later, Star Trek included its own device. Even Douglas Adams included a universal translator,
the babel fish, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Fortunately, real-life researchers have been
working at making these fictional devices possibilities. At 2014’s Code Conference, Microsoft’s
CEO Satya Nadella announced the Skype Translator, a new feature that aims to bring diverse people
together. Microsoft is keeping quiet about how many
languages the Skype Translator will cover, but the technology behind universal translation
exists and is rapidly growing. 6. Holographic Communicators While the Star Wars series inspired the research
of life-changing technology ranging from lightsabers to warp drives, it also inspired the creation
of more practical, everyday gadgets like holographic communicators. Ostendo Technologies Inc. has developed a
tiny projector that can be placed in devices like mobile phones, TVs, tablets, and even
smart watches. Ostendo’s projector allows people to see
3D images without 3D glasses — eventually, this technology could be used to send holographic
communications just like in Star Wars. Messaging as we know it could evolve as a
result of this research. Much of our communication is expressed non-verbally
— there are simply things that you can’t adequately communicate with just your voice
or text. The perfection of Ostendo’s research could
mark a huge transformation in the effectiveness of communication technology. Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and other companies
are also researching holograms. HP even affectionately named their study Project
Leia. 5. House Cleaning Robots Robots programmed to complete chores are no
strangers to science fiction — partly because people have fantasized about someone else
doing their housework for centuries. Luckily, house cleaning robots are no longer
exclusive to The Jetsons. Even though the robots cleaning your home
might not have as much personality, they’re definitely effective. Massachusetts-based company iRobot delivered
its line of vacuum cleaners to curious consumers in 2002. Their devices minimize the effort needed to
clean, and scheduling systems integrated into many robotic cleaners create peace of mind. Unless your have a cleaning emergency, you
won’t need to tell the machines what to do and when to do it. And as far as products like the Roomba go,
very little maintenance is involved. Typically, consumers only need to empty the
vacuum’s dustbin when it’s full. iRobot has also released robotic gutter cleaners,
mops, and pool cleaners. Of course, robots in science fiction have
had other jobs as well. In Terminator robots serve as soldiers. In Robot and Frank, robots help to care for
the elderly. What will the robots of our future be able
to do? 4. Floppy Disks and USB Drives Hardly anyone uses floppy disks anymore, but
Star Trek played a role in inspiring digital portable storage. The characters inserted small, square disks
into computer consoles in order to save information. Although not as small or convenient as modern
or fictional storage devices, the 3.5-inch floppy disks popular in the 1980s and ’90s
were very much similar to the technology used on the show. Portable storage techniques continued to develop
on Star Trek: The Next Generation, partly due to an effort to keep the series’ fictional
technology evolving alongside real world technology. For example, the show featured chips that
could store several gigabytes of data. USB drives can store amounts of information
comparable to the chips on the show, which is much, much more data than our old floppy
disks could hold. In fact, USB drives can now store a terabyte
of information, proving that reality is still capable of surpassing fiction. 3. GPS In 1995, thirty years after the concept debuted
on Star Trek, the United States deemed a Global Positioning System a functional concept. America launched 27 Earth-orbiting satellites
in order to test it. From then on, GPS technology has continued
to evolve. Today, GPS systems in cell phones serve commonplace
tasks like locating travel destinations and helping stores figure out the patterns in
which customers move. Although Star Trek influenced the invention
of many vital devices, author Arthur C. Clarke did some inspiring of his own in 1956. His writing about satellites encouraged the
development of high-speed communication systems. These communication systems are responsible
for everything from letting you talk to people on your cell phone to finding your current
location. On Star Trek, the Enterprise crew was located
on the ground and beamed up by using GPS. However, without a little inspiration from
people like Clarke, no one would have had the chance to say, “Beam me up, Scotty.” 2. Diagnostic Bed Ever wish you could avoid back-to-back doctor’s
appointments, invasive diagnostic surgeries, and unpleasant tests? Ever hope that one day you could simply lie
in bed and get a surefire diagnosis? Well, your day has come — at one British
hospital, you can do all of these things. The hospital’s space-age sickbay detects
illnesses ranging from stomach viruses to cancer. The machine itself contains an astounding
variety of equipment, including parts of probes designed for Mars missions. The technology is compared to the scanners
that Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy swept in front of bodies to diagnose illnesses. The real-world technology relies on state-of-the-art
imaging systems and diagnoses disease by honing in on sights, sounds and smells. The best part about it? None of the diagnostic tools used by this
technology are invasive. Unfortunately, unlike with Dr. McCoy’s invention,
patients using the diagnostic bed still need to be hooked up to equipment for monitoring. 1. Earbuds Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 predicted
that society would be addicted to media and entertainment. The book proposed that along with television,
“thimble radios” and “seashells,” which are essentially earbuds, would be how
people sought out their information. These devices would occupy people with sounds,
music, and talk shows. A society not permitted to read needs some
kind of pastime, right? Even though the story was published in 1953,
it predicted numerous forms of technology, many of which are common today. Walls of televisions emphasized how technology
addiction affected the characters living in Bradbury’s dystopia. A glance around any college campus will prove
that people are hooked to their earbuds. Although books haven’t been banned, people
today are absorbed in technology — only now, the TVs and radios that call us away
from our loved ones can fit in the palms of our hands.

86 thoughts on “10 Inventions Inspired by Science Fiction

  1. 🍔 I'm like a smart person I know the biggest words believe me I'm a very stable genius I'm the chosen one

  2. I want to take a few minutes to give my heartfelt thanks to the team of TopTenz and the sister channels that sprouted from it – Today I Found Out, Biographics, Geographics – for accompanying me as I spent time working on artwork while your videos inject fascinating information into my mind. While this information are not inspiration for my creative processes, I thoroughly enjoy all the knowledge presented in these videos. Thank you.

  3. I think it's more accurate to call this video 10 inventions inspired by Star Trek. Although you do mention other science fiction works, you mainly mention Star Trek.

  4. The first showing of a tablet-like device was before it was shown in Star Trek – In "2001: A Space Odissey" (1968) the crew reads news on tablets …. That's much earlier. Star Trek had a much more robust usage. Nevertheless, they're not the first.

  5. I really liked this episode. I had completely forgotten that Farenheit 451 had so many futuristic ideas in it. Thank you for that reminder. I will have to go back and reread it again. I hope you can find more stories like these in the future. Or the present or past depending on your point of view.

  6. in Star trek TNG, every time the computer would malfunction it would start playing a random song. Data would know the name of that song instantly.

    And thus Shazam was born

  7. #7 Having received computer translated e-mails I do not place much faith in conversations done the same way. Maybe for finding a bathroom… #2 Still have to clip an ET finger on to measure oxygen levels.

  8. This is the part where we point out flip phones are kinda making a resurgence thanks to foldable screens. And yes I'll get one of those Motorola Razr phones as soon as the issues are ironed out.

  9. Star wars: Lukes prosthethic hand inspired modern bionic prosthethics… And militaries worldwide are working on equivalent to Ghost in the shell thermooptical camouflage…

  10. Just goes to prove Sci-fi it may not predict the future but gives us crazy ideas for fabulous gadgets. The Flip phone was also an answer to embarrassing Butt-dials!!

  11. Gps technology already existed long before 1995, that was when the us military made it available for everyone.. satellite navigation was made available to help industry, in perticular the airline industry..

  12. If we were waiting ON hoverboards from Back to the Future they would have already been invented and we would be waiting FOR something else. The English language is going down the drain!

  13. Actually Star Trek's communicators are still superior to cell phones insofar as they can communicate with nearby spaceships and do not appear to require any sort of infrastructure.

  14. The medical industry should invent a giant diagnostic device to shove up people's butts so we can feel the resemblance of the debilitating pain from medical bills to the pain of the device.

  15. The original Tom Swift.  Managed to get my hands on about a dozen of those novels published from the early 1900s to the 1930s.  Those books are the first ones to every make me laugh out loud and didn't care I did it in public.  Tom bursts into a room where his teen enemy bad guy trying to kiss Tom's girl and he yells out, "You Cad You!"  I had never actually seen that line written before then.

  16. That one little idea by Gene Roddenberry, and all those inspired inventors, it's quite the chain reaction really, without Star Trek, the world we live in today would probably be very different technology-wise… 🙂

  17. Rumba reminds me of a Ray Bradbury stories, the ocupents of a home are long gone but the house lives on.. lots of Bradbury comming to lite…

  18. I keep several of my flip phones in my office and occasionally show them to students. Some students hold them as if they're magical antiques from another realm. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who wants to get away from these modern rectangular dinner plate phones and get some modern version of those classic beauties. It would need a virtual keyboard to handle to modern texting facility, and it would need the ability to run a few critical apps, but certainly not the loads of garbage apps that swamp phones these days. Motorola would have served a rather significant consumer base if, instead of creating that obscenely expensive new "foldable" phone, it had just updated its flip phones.

  19. Haha! 3:01 I never thought i'd see Finnish anywhere. It says "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
    Minus points for it NOT BEING ON A NOKIA!!!

  20. It’s funny, Tom Cruise tried to credit Minority Report for the creation of the ipad. Don’t get me wrong, I love that movie, and it’s vision of the future seemed pretty accurate, I just think it’s funny to see how out of touch he was to not know the concept had already been introduced.

  21. Butthurt Boomer comments: – It often surprises me that not young people, but many entertainment products portray someone of my age (late sixties) as a decrepit old person who couldn't turn on a cellphone, when in reality people my age have read the old Sci-Fi, watched Science catch up with the visions of the Fifties, and actually participated in that development. In contrast, when I was 15, a 65yo was born before cars were invented, before Einstein ever published.

  22. Star Trek was a great inspiration for a great many "gadgets" and modern day technology, and many cited ST as their inspiration for getting into engineering or medical fields.

  23. One that is well known is how similar Bluetooth earpieces are to what was used in the original star trek by Uhura at the communications console

  24. Looking at tech to come, like the holograms and the diagnostic bed was interesting. I think the video would have been better to keep it as tech everyone was using today. Submarines and rockets to the moon were also tech inspired by sci-fi. It's too bad they weren't included instead. Still, it was a fun video to watch. =)

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