Strange things in science fiction on the verge of existence

Every iteration of sci-fi media from past to present influences society, from helpful robots to sentient AIs. And we're not done yet, as a slew of sci-fi imagination is set to become reality very, very soon. Be on the lookout for …

Laser guns

It's hard to imagine any sci-fi media without the use of laser guns, blasters, and swords. It should go without saying that at least some of them would eventually become real, but unfortunately, like most innovative technologies, the military got its hands on them first.

In February, the Army announced that it would begin funding the development, construction, and testing of laser weapons. That's right, soon our military will be able to zap missiles into dust right from the comfort of some geeky sergeant's dark "man cave." Hey, we already fly planes with what amounts to X-Box controllers, and most of the current conflicts are being fought with drones. So why not add lasers to the mix?

The Army claims that by the year 2023, laser weapons will be the norm and fully functional. We're going to assume the military has intel on a pending alien invasion and is slowly but surely preparing our defenses so we can have a fighting chance. It's only a matter of time before this technology becomes available to the public, hopefully before the aliens invade. We have to protect ourselves too, after all.

Flying cars

Remember around 1999, when everyone hoped for flying cars, because The Jetsons version of the 21st century had them? Well, it looks like we're closer to that goal than ever before. Flying cars, once a staple of science fiction, are well on the way to becoming part of our reality.

In 2015, a Slovakian team called AeroMobil revealed that they were beginning to build the first "aerial roadster," a car that could be used on both the road and in the air. We're talking actual flying, a la The Jetsons. Even better: the cars are slated to be available as soon as 2017. Likely, the price tag will make the common George and Jane gag, but luxury car enthusiasts and filthy rich people will be able to enjoy their own personal flying cars as soon as these bad boys hit the market. So, if you've got a couple hundred grand sitting somewhere, you can probably start flying real right quick.

Of course, the cars won't likely be available until all the FFA clearances are completed in the same vein as drone flying. This makes us wonder how these cars will affect traffic laws and the interstate systems. Also, will we be able to fold up our cars into a briefcase, also like The Jetsons? That'd be mad convenient when the supermarket's super-crowded on Saturdays.

Invisibility cloak

We've seen cloaking in iconic media like Ghost in the Shell and The Avengers, and of course the Predator franchise is infamous for the cloaking technology the Predator uses to hunt prey. We've even seen it used in Harry Potter, because the ability to turn totally invisible is exactly the kind of power you give to an adolescent boy.

As for real-life, while an invisibility cloak is not yet in production, cloaking technology has been in its nascent stage for the better part of three years. Scientists in the UK, in particular, have begun the first leaps toward unlocking the secret of cloaking technology. The science behind it is weird, complicated, and would probably take an entire academic career to explain, but in short: it uses optics and metamaterials to bend light away from the object, rendering it invisible to the naked eye.

While no prototype's been developed, the theory is there, it makes realistic sense, and that's more than enough to make it count. We hope to see this technology reach maturity and become available within the next ten years, but if pop culture is anything to go by, the military will get first dibs, leaving us to wait twenty or so years before we can get our hands on it. That is, presuming we survive the Great Invisible Nuclear War of 2040.

Talking holograms

Microsoft has taken a few Ls in the last few years, but one thing they have in their favor is being one of the world's foremost developers of innovative technology. While most of us are probably swiping away on our iPhones, asking Siri questions that we know we shouldn't be asking, Microsoft has been turning another aspect of science fiction into science fact: talking holograms.

Repeat: Talking. Holograms. If we told you how geeked we are about this development, you'd probably think Microsoft bribed us to plug this.

Talking holograms are another staple of science fiction that have finally — after decades of research — begun making their way into reality. Taking its cues from Google Glass, Microsoft is offering engineering enthusiasts, students, hobbyists, and researchers (for the small cost of $3,000) a chance to partake in the beta stage of development of what is called the HoloLens.

While not much is known about the HoloLens at present, we're expecting Microsoft to deliver the news at a press conference, complete with all the usual catchy commercials that make us regular, average plebeians somehow think spending 3 G's on the most cyberpunk glasses ever is a good idea.

Well, they aren't entirely wrong. We are so geeked for talking holos.

Smartphone tattoos

Remember back in the '90s, when people joked about how cell phones would get smaller and smaller, and finally just resort to implants in our brains, like the cyberbrains from Ghost in the Shell? Apparently, researchers at MIT do, since they've developed metallic tattoos that can interface with electronics, particularly smartphones and laptops. That means it'll soon be unnecessary to actually own any of the expensive phone accoutrements being sold separately for exorbitant prices. We're not naming names, but the company's named after a fruit.

In any case, these tattoos — called DuoSkin — are in development, have been tested, and thus far are fully-functional. You can control your music selection, your mouse, and virtually anything on your smartphone or computer. Even better? It's completely customizable, meaning you design your tattoo, decide when, where, and how you wear it, and what you interface with it. We're thinking these tattoos will likely be the first real step in blurring the line between human and machine, which is fine by us, unless the DuoSkins look like those ugly tribal tats everyone sported in the '90s. No amount of cyborging is worth going back to those things.

Telepathy

What if you could read the minds of your immediate family? What if you could communicate without so much as picking up a phone to text, snapping a photo, or speaking a word? You might well be able to soon, as scientists have recently completed the first tentative research toward proving that mental telepathy is a real and plausible thing, calling into question the merits of humanity's further evolution.

The initial test was conducted on literal lab rats by neuroscientist Carlos Grau of the University of Barcelona. Mice were hooked up to a device called an electroencephelagraph (EEG), which can "read" and pick up signals from subjects all the way in India. The EEG would then transmit to subjects in France, whose scalps were connected with TransCranial Magnetic simulators (TCM). Not only did the rats manage to communicate through actual "brain waves," but the error margins were well below expectations.

What does this mean for humanity, then? It means that communication can be completely revolutionized if these tests can be implemented on human subjects, and could further break down communication barriers around the world. Now, yes, it could also mean we could end up like those creatures in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, but we're not going to break our Moon and destroy our world to facilitate a dual evolution of humanity, right?

Right?