Top 6 Star Wars Technology Milestones We've Reached Today
In 1977, the first film of the original Star Wars trilogy made its epic debut. For years, viewers raved about the futuristic wonders that unfolded in each iteration of the series — from droids such as C-3PO and R2-D2 to lightsaber technology and holography. Now, with the launch of the sequel trilogy and anthology series, fans once again get to relive the sci-fi filled adventures of their favorite franchise. But, the difference between now and 40 years ago, is that some of the iconic space-age technologies are no longer far, far away.
“Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
In the 1977 feature, A New Hope, Princess Leia sends a plea for help via holographic projection. In parallel, the 2016 film Rogue One shows Jyn watching a hologram of her father flickering as the Holy City of Jedha crumbles around her.
While using holograms to communicate became standard in Star Wars movies, the telecommunication method far exceeds household 21st century technology. However, holograms may hit the home and workplace sooner than you think. According to Fox News, Australian scientists have created a small device made of millions of microscopic silicon pillars — each 500 times thinner than a strand of hair — that can manipulate light to create high-quality infrared holograms.
While the holography produced is still a long way from cinematic quality, the technology in its current state can be used to enhance 3–D modeling for manufacturing or construction, in store check-out counters for bar code scanning and more.
“These [are] the droids you’re looking for.”
From battle droids to probots, Star Wars is teeming with robots. While we still don’t have wide scale capabilities to develop adorable, skittish BB-8s or life-size, protocol-driven C-3POs in the real world, we are seeing intelligent robotics rapidly entering the market. For example:
- Kismet: An M.I.T. robot that responds according to human body language and voice inflection.
- Pepper: A humanoid companion robot designed to perceive human emotions and adapt to fit the mood.
- LG Rolling Bot: A remotely controlled, rolling home monitoring device with a camera, infrared sensor, microphone and speakers.
- SpotMini: A Boston Dynamics robot that quietly trots, hops, runs and can even stand up after being pushed over.
- Honda Asimo: A robot that helps people perform daily tasks, can communicate in sign language and — most importantly — dance.
Those are just a few of the robots on the rise mimicking Star Wars tech — not to mention the machine learning that’s incorporated into smart drones, autonomous vehicles and intelligent house appliances. As our technology becomes more advanced, the use cases become even greater.
The Luke arm
With all the weaponry and combat recorded in the Star Wars galaxy, injuries have been plentiful. One or more appendages were lost by Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace showdown, Anakin in Attack of the Clones, and Luke Skywalker after famously dueling Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
The same way Luke received a cybernetic hand, patients today are also able to get bionic body parts. According to Mirror, a research team in Canada built a bionic prosthetic that detects muscle movement and makes real-time predictions. It’s equipped with machine learning and data storage capabilities that “memorize” actions such as grasping a bottle or opening a door.
In 2016, Switzerland hosted the world’s first Cybathlon — an event that would not have been possible a few years ago. It was a memorable sports competition that further highlighted the promising potential of bionic body parts. Contestants participated in prosthetic powered, brain-controlled and muscle-stimulated competitions.
A company called Second Sight took next-steps when it released a US FDA-approved device dubbed Argus II, aka the first bionic eye. I can only imagine what we will achieve next with cybernetic technology.
“This is a new day, a new beginning.” – Ahsoka Tano
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a car.
Star Wars is just one of the sci-fi films featuring flying cars, like Luke’s X-34 Landspeeder. While we might not be able to drive hovercrafts to work just yet, we are seeing exciting developments around vertical flight.
Aerofex Aero-X is a flying bike concept with a 75 minute flying time, and a reach of up to 10 feet and 72 mph. Even more impressive is the Aeromobil two-person flying car that can jet up to 124 mph with a gas range of about 425 miles. Both vehicles will debut sometime in 2017.
“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.”
Now, Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without lightsabers. Used by the Jedi, the Sith and other Force-gifted individuals, lightsabers contain kyber crystals and are a true power to be reckoned with.
While these portable laser-beams may seem like a novel idea, harnessing high energy gamma ray beams into compact handles is a little complicated for the real world. However, this doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t playing around with laser technology. In fact, the U.S. Navy is already testing a 30 kW laser from the deck of the USS Ponce. Healthcare facilities are also experimenting with laser therapy for more accurate, surgical treatments. Unfortunately, unlike the Star Wars tech, these beams are colorless and don’t create epic sound effects.