Star Trek: The Next Generation was always one of my favorite shows. The world it brought into my life – once a week – was a Utopia, with technology finally overtaking most of the world’s problems. It was so good at it that Captain Picard had to travel through the galaxy to find problems to be solved, using technology that we couldn’t have imagined today. I’ve always been fascinated by the tools the crew of the Enterprise used – especially by the tablets they carried around day after day. Who could imagine that these small devices would invade our pockets so soon, allowing us to read the news and play mobile casino games so early in the 21st century.
But there are several other devices that today’s scientists have already built, long before the coming of the 24th century.
One of the most fascinating ideas of the series, the Holodeck was a prime source for distraction – and an invaluable learning and training tool – for the crew of the Enterprise. And now it’s one step closer to reality thanks to Microsoft’s HoloLens.
While it will not be as realistic as the one described in the series, the HoloLens – once it will be ready and start working as advertised – will step up augmented reality to a level never before seen. With a bit of generosity we can consider the HoloLens to be a wearable holodeck, projecting holograms before our eyes – holograms with which we can interact in the virtual space.
Translating text – even if roughly – is freely available to anyone thanks to various online translation services. But when it comes to translating speech, there are way more problems that need to be solved. But we have taken the first steps toward the Universal Translator becoming a reality.
Microsoft’s Skype has brought the technology within reach for anyone. During a video call, the text spoken by the person on the other end of the line will be translated on the fly, and appear as a transcript – much like a subtitle in a move – at the bottom of the screen. With the improvements that will surely be made to the service in the future, it will have the potential to destroy any and all language barriers in front of freely communicating with our fellow men.
One of the most intriguing innovations from the old Star Trek series and feature films was the transparent aluminium (Star Trek IV, the one when Kirk and the crew travel back in time to save some whales). The stuff that seemed too Sci-fi to exist was created quite a few years ago – it’s called “spinel”, or magnesium aluminate, and has far better properties than glass. It can replace glass and sapphire protecting the screens of our smartphones and tablets in the next decade or so.