10 Strange but Incredible Sci-Fi Technologies That Already Exist


“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

From space exploration, to the smartphone, there isn’t one area of technology that hasn’t been influenced by the fantasy before it. Science fiction engages the imagination and compels us to dream and conceptualize the unimaginable. And though sometimes new inventions seem odd or unthinkable, they may surprise us in ways we’ve never thought of before, like…

10. Real Life Smell-O-Scope


If you’re a fan of Futurama, odds are you’ve seen Professor Farnsworth’s Smell-O-Scope, a device that can smell scents across the universe. Initially it was just a gag invention for the television show, but thanks to the Denver Department of Environmental Health, it is now a reality. The Nasal Ranger operates exactly like its fictional counterpart, but for the sole purpose of sniffing out marijuana and other illegal smells drifting around the neighborhood.

Ranger Ben Siller uses the scope to detect scents that are at least at 8:1 strength, meaning that it is within range of being illegal and fineable for up to $2,000. A dial operated mixer filters out varying degrees of different scents, determining which hits the target area of strength and which doesn’t, allowing one to easily track and find marijuana within a given radius. The device has also been featured on a History channel episode.

9. Real Back to the Future Lace Up Shoes


Have you ever wanted automatic lace up shoes? Everyone who has ever had a child has, especially ever since they first saw that magical film about time travelling, Back to the Future II. At the time, the technology seemed remarkably far away, and while today it might also seem that way, we don’t have to wait any longer. A designer by the name of Blake Bevin has designed her own version of the shoes of the shoes, which can lace up automatically.

Small motors in the shoe power the mechanism, and a small button on the side activates it. Currently, it is still in production, but has had its Kickstarter page successfully funded, while she has a video of a fully functional version here. Nike had filed a similar patent back in 2009 with their own similar version, but never fully went through with it, other than a pair they recently created for Michael J. Fox. Future versions of Blake’s design will feature sensors so that the shoes are completely and totally hands free, making lacing up effortless for the elderly, or any lazy person.

8. Ice Nine Polymer To Jellify Ocean Life


In Kurt Vonnegut’s famous novel Cat’s Cradle, Ice Nine is a polymer that could freeze over entire oceans from just a small quantity. Now, this same doomsday material exists, as Dutch researchers have synthesized a gel-forming polymer that can jellify an entire Olympic sized swimming pool when heated to a certain temperature.

Polyisocyanide has short peptide arms surrounding a helical backbone, coated in carbon and oxygen chains that can push molecules such as H2O away to build a gel-like structure within seconds. Contrasted with most natural biopolymers, which build structure once cooled, this gives it way more applications in science, such as an instant way to plug up fatal wounds.

7. Real Spidey Sense Suit

What would you do if you had super powers? Would you use them for good, or for your own self interests? Either one you choose, you might soon be able to live out those fantasies, sort of, thanks to a graduate student named Mateevitsi, who designed a “Spider Sense” suit with the incredibly genius and original name of, well, SpiderSense.

Small robotic arms are outfitted all over the suit and contain microphone modules that receive and send ultrasonic reflections from and to the surrounding environment. When a threat is detected, sensors apply pressure to the designated body part toward the appropriate direction. Test subjects were blindfolded and given cardboard throwing stars to toss at perceived threats. And 95% of the time, they were able to properly attack their threat, meaning the suit could be helpful for people walking home at night, or the elderly and cyclists, or the adult-children who want to live out comic book fantasies.

6. Digital Taste Simulator

Ever wanted to try virtual video game foods? Or eat taste any flavor of your favorite food at any time you want? Scientists at the National University of Singapore have made that dream come true with their Digital Taste Interface device, which lets you taste virtually anything you want to, by way of electrodes.

A small silver electrode attaches to the tip of your tongue and can trick the taste buds into experiencing all five tastes by way of current, frequency and temperature manipulation. In the above video, test subjects are seen experiencing different tastes by way of the sensor. Groundbreaking implications include a way for diabetics to finally taste sweet things without spiking their sugar levels, or cancer patients to enjoy food while undergoing chemo therapy.

5. Magneto Shoes

The closest you’ve ever gotten to being a superhero was probably something like putting on a cape and mask and pretending to be Batman or Superman. Eventually we all grow up and put aside childish things. Except one man, that is, by the name of Colin Furze, whose YouTube channel is devoted to bringing outlandish superhero powers to life, like Wolverine claws.

His latest feat is a take on the magnetic powerhouse Magneto, and specifically magnetic shoes to help emulate some of his powers. His invention allows him to walk on the ceiling by way of magnetic coils attached to the bottom of a pair of Vans sneakers. A current is run through the coils to create a magnetic attraction, and a switch on the heel allows him to control this current at will, toggling it to move one foot after another to walk across any metallic surface. Let’s hope he doesn’t use his powers for evil.

4. Dune Algae Suit Provides Self-Sustaining Sustenance


Algae is one of the most important plants on our planet, providing almost half of all of our oxygen, as well as being extremely plentiful and nutritious. NASA is trying to use algae and bacteria to create enough oxygen to survive on trips to Mars. So why haven’t we fully utilized it here? Well After Agri’s Michiko Nitta and Michael Burton have created a biotechnology suit reminiscent of the stillsuits from Dune, which can trap moisture and keep your body hydrated through the harsh desert landscapes by trapping CO2 through a breathing mask and transporting it through tubes to a stored algae colony.

They’ve experimented with the technology by using opera singer Louise Ashcroft and her large lung capacity to generate enough CO2 to create enough algae, which is then provided to her audience for tasting after her performance. After that, it’s just up to a little photosynthesis and sunlight, and they have their own self-sustaining supply of edible food. Whether this will transform the way we think about food or not is yet to be seen, but the idea is very out of the box and interesting.

3. Real Transformers: Self-Assembling Cubes

Transformers toys could never truly become their on-screen counterparts, with the ability to transform into whatever, at will and by themselves. That technology is in a future far, far away. Or is it? Engineers at MIT have designed self-assembling cubes called M-blocks, which can leap, climb, move, and roll all without any external parts whatsoever. So yes, it’s very possible that the plot of Big Hero 6 could break out at any moment.

This is made possible by an internal flywheel that spins at 20,000 revolutions per minute. When this rotation is stopped, the angular momentum is sent outward to the cube, making movement possible, and magnets are fitted to the edges and faces to make attachment to other cubes possible. If this is sounding like too much science, don’t worry, it’s something that is better understood by watching it in action. Because the cubes can form themselves into whatever shape desired, the possibilities are endless. From self-assembling buildings, to giant death robots. Whatever science feels like at any moment.

2. Batman-like Zebedee Scanner Maps Crime Scenes in 3D

Batman is well known for his unconventional ways of solving crime and his extensive use of expensive high tech equipment that seems ripped straight from the pages of science fiction. Such practices, though, no longer belong to the realm of fiction, and are now being utilized by real life Batmen in law enforcement to solve crime faster and more effectively. The Zebedee scanner does just that. Designed by Australia’s national research agency, CSIRO, Zebedee can map out entire crime scenes in three dimensions, providing much more accurate evidence in court for better testimonies, as well as allowing future access to a given area and hard to reach places.

It accomplishes this by way of a 2D LIDAR scanner mounted on the head, which beams lasers to surrounding objects, gathering over 40,000 points of data each second, with a range of about 30 meters, saving law enforcement thousands of hours in investigation and labor. Currently at a price of $37,000, the scanner sees little usage outside of a few task forces, but Australia is employing more devices with more police forces across the country. Outside of crime, mapping crucial sites of cultural heritage, and other future uses, will see it mounted on drones to extend the reach of its powerful scanning capabilities.

1. MIT’s inForm Lets You Remotely Touch Stuff


The limitations of the human body are that it can’t remotely access things the way a computer can, connected to an always active, seemingly endless network of cables and digital information. But what if you could do that? What if you could, say, roll a ball miles away in the comfort of your own home? That’s where MIT’s inForm comes in. It’s a device that renders people three dimensionally and gives them remote access to manipulate their surroundings.

The machine is like a pinscreen, one of those toys that makes the shape of your hand on the other side when you press on it, except each pin is connected to a motor. One one, in turn, is controlled with a microcontroller and circuit board. A regular Xbox Kinect tracks movement and renders the person’s actions to the other side, giving them control to touch, move, and shape things, even if they aren’t in the same room. The possibilities are endless. For starters, how about being able to access whatever you wanted, anytime and anywhere you wanted, or being able to perform remote surgery? Finally, an invention that makes it acceptable to perform invasive heart surgery without the pesky need to be wearing pants.

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1 Comment

  1. 1: Colorado legalized personal use of marijuana in 2012. So someone sniffing around for pot smoke doesn’t make any sense, unless the Ranger was trying to bust someone for public use in a park. But your article doesn’t state that.
    2: In the story “Ice Nine” a chemical was accidentally released that caused water to freeze at ‘room temperature’. It was causing a chain reaction that meant all the water on the planet would eventually freeze, killing all life on earth. There could be no possible beneficial use for that