From the self-assembling robots of "Transformers 4" to the exoskeletons of "Ironman 3" and "Elysium," advance...
From the self-assembling robots of "Transformers 4" to the exoskeletons of "Ironman 3" and "Elysium," advanced technology continues to play a prominent role in the plots of today's hottest science fiction and action films. Already, the public finds itself duped regarding the existence of movie-based technologies; results of a 2011 survey from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation indicate that the vast majority of moviegoers prove clueless in terms of which film technologies exist in real life and which remain mere fantasies. While many mistakenly believe in concepts such as time travel and co-existing dinosaurs and humans, still others remain unaware of real-world technological miracles such as invisibility cloaks and biometrics.
No, the robots from "Transformers" do not yet exist in real life, but scientists are certainly coming close, thanks to the development of self-assembling modular robotic cubes. Commonly referred to as M-blocks, these robotic cubes came about as the result of continued research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where experts at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory refused to believe naysayers who claimed that the concept of "Transformers" could only exist in the realm of film. Essentially, the M-block involves a continuous strip that can fold itself into arbitrary shapes -- just like the robots from "Transformers 4."
When "2001: A Space Odyssey" first came to theaters in 1968, viewers assumed that voice recognition and other hallmarks of biometrics couldn't possibly hit the market, even in the distant future of the 2000s. But a wide range of biometric technology has since emerged, allowing for the identification of human subjects through everything from irises and fingerprints to vocal cues. This concept has plenty of practical approaches now seen in everyday life, including voice recognition for smart phone security and biometric alarm systems offered by suppliers such as Lifeshield. According to PBS' "Nova" biometrics' future is bright indeed, with greater incorporation in mobile technology predicted in months and years to come.
From Sigourney Weaver in "Alien" to Robert Downey Jr. in "Ironman," plenty of the movie industry's talents have donned exoskeleton suits as a welcome addition to action sequences and science fiction intrigue. Today, everyday individuals can also wear exoskeletons, thanks to an impressive effort from Japan's Ekso Bionics. Of course, as "Slate" points out, this technology possesses a far more practical real-world application than what viewers witnessed in "Ironman," with disabled individuals utilizing exoskeleton technology in the hopes of walking on their own two legs.
Remember the invisibility cloak from the "Harry Potter" series? Turns out, a real-life version is currently in development, with early feedback proving quite promising. This real-world invisibility cloak does not make the wearer entirely invisible, as in "Harry Potter," but it does go a long way in reducing visibility, particularly in military scenarios. Researchers at the University of Texas broke ground in 2013 by incorporating battery power into the formerly passive invisibility approach, taking small amounts of electrical current and dispersing it across the metamaterial surfaces that have already proven effective in deflecting both radio signals and human vision. Although this technology remains in the early stages, signs indicate that it could prove transformative in future military operations.
Modular Robotic Cubes
Photo by Sham Hardy via Flickr
Photo by DARPA via Flickr
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Article submitted by Ora Dixon
Ora is a futurist from Dallas, always busy imagining the next generation of smartphone tech.