Tomorrow’s sci-fi gadgets, available today
By John Brandon
Far future predictions of tech gadgets rarely work out. Not many of us ride a jetpack to work or step into a transporter to beam over to France on a whim, and the flying car is still a figment of the imagination (if not downright impossible). Even the light saber in Star Wars, which would be really handy as a hand-to-hand combat weapon, has never materialized. (Of course, it also defies the laws of physics.) Why can’t book authors and moviemakers ever get it right?
Well, it turns out that a few “far future” gadgets actually do exist, and you can order them on Amazon. Here’s a quick rundown of the best products and where you’ve seen them.
In the Star Trek movies, a tricorder provided a quick and painless diagnosis. This GE medical scanner uses the same technology. It works almost exactly like an ultrasound, but it can find critical issues such as fluid around the heart without any invasive surgery. The pocket device, about the size of a smartphone, weighs about one pound. Scans take about two minutes.
Cyclone Power Technologies
In the Back to the Future movies, a DeLorean runs on garbage. Cyclone Power has a steam engine that runs on fuel made from corn husks, orange peels, or just about any biodegradable agent. The engine requires no fossil fuel oils at all, so it’s safe for the environment. Yet, the engine is no slouch: it has enough power for a large farm tractor.
StayHealthy Body Fat Analyzer
In the Doctor Who series, a body fat analyzer could convert your extra fat into an alien creature. This body fat analyzer doesn’t go that far. It sends a “mild” electrical current through your body and measures the amount of fat. That way, you can get a much clearer picture of exactly how much weight loss you really need, as opposed to just the bottom line.
Zeltiq fat burner
Matt Groening’s Futurama presents goofy science-fiction ideas as well-known facts. In several episodes, characters zap fat with a ray gun. Yet, the Zeltiq fat burner does just that, by freezing fat cells so they eventually deteriorate. The product is already in use as a cosmetic surgery aid but will eventually become a home appliance that anyone can use.
Arthur C. Clarke famously predicted we’d be using GPS tracking in his many novels, and even nailed the part about triangulation. He wrote about how objects and vehicles would be “geo-located” by revolving satellites. Yet, things are getting out of control: your location can be shared from your cell phone at all times and you can create a constant stream of your whereabouts, using tools such as Loopt and Google Latitude. Next year, your car will also stream its exact location (OnStar service does this already). Eventually, real estate agents will feed listings to you as you walk by a new home for sale. And what’s next? GPS will link more closely to credit card transactions — you’re Burger King stops will be much faster.
In Philip K. Dick’s Zap Gun novel from 1967, he predicted that — in 2004 — we’d still be fighting a cold war with Russia, but our weapons would be consumerized into household aids. The Ionator, from a small Minnesota company, looks like something from the book. It zaps germs by spraying a chemical that separates grime from counter-tops. The hand-held gun is futuristic enough that, when you use one, you feel like you should be wearing a Star Trek uniform.