In the past few months a number of technologies and products that invoke the Star Trek name have been rolled out. MIT was the latest with a tractor beam-like device, but all manner of other new stuff from Star Trek funeral products to healthcare items are also out there. We’ve gathered up some of the more recent products so you can have a quick look-see.
MIT’s Tractor Beam
Call it Star Trek tech for microscopes. MIT researchers said this week they have found a way to use a “tractor beam” of light to pick up, hold, and move around individual cells and other objects on the surface of a microchip. The technology is known as optical tweezers and MIT researchers have found a way to combine this powerful tool for moving, controlling and measuring objects for use in building and manipulating items on a chip. Optical tweezers technology has been around for awhile but the ability to use it in combination with the microchip is what makes this unique, researchers said.
The U of Washington Tricorder
Earlier in the year researchers at the University of Washington said they were experimenting with a device right out of Star Trek: a Tricorder-like tool that uses high-intensity focused ultrasound rays. On Star Trek Tricorders had multiple functions but the medical version used by Bones McCoy could scan a body and help diagnose and heal injured or sick patients. In addition, Purdue University researchers said they created a handheld sensing system its creators said could be used for testing foods for dangerous bacterial contaminants including salmonella.
Star Trek Line of funeral products
Ok this is what you want if you are a real Trekkie and you indeed want to take it with you. Call it Star Trek meets death. The Eternal Image’s Web site says it all: For the millions of fans on our planet and beyond, our new line of Star Trek urns, caskets, monuments and vaults will be an important discovery indeed. After ten movies and five television series, phrases like “Live long and prosper,” “Resistance is futile” and “Space: the final frontier” have become part of our global vocabulary. The Star Trek Casket styling has been inspired by the popular “Photon Torpedo” design seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. Monuments and vaults will also debut next year.
The Air Force’s transparent armor
Air Force Research Laboratory Engineers are testing a new kind of transparent armor – stronger and lighter than traditional materials – that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows. The group is testing aluminum oxynitride – ALON a ceramic compound with a high compressive strength and durability. When polished, it is the premier transparent armor for use in armored vehicles.
This product has been out for awhile but it still warrants mentioning, especially in wildly interesting articles such as this. The crew of the classic science-fiction show’s Starship Enterprise wore small devices on their chests that they could tap to communicate instantly with their colleagues. Vocera’s Communications System is uncannily like those science-fiction gadgets. It uses hands-free, voice-activated devices that users can carry around their necks to talk with co-workers any time, anywhere within range of the enterprise’s Wi-Fi network.
The Phaser Gun
The phaser gun comes to us courtesy of Ionatron, which makes what it calls “directed energy weapons. ” According to the company’s Website, its devices produce ” man-made lightning” to disable people or vehicles that threaten our security.” Basically is a short pulse laser that can be directed at a target with ferocious intensity. The company also notes that the gun is available in lethal and non-lethal versions.
Purdue’s Cloaking Device
So you thought only Romulans had a cloaking device? Hardly. Purdue researchers using nanotechnology this week have taken a step toward creating an optical cloaking device that could make objects invisible. The Purdue University engineers, following mathematical guidelines devised in 2006 by physicists in the United Kingdom, have created a theoretical design that uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke. The design, which resembles a round hairbrush, would bend light around the object being cloaked. Background objects would be visible but not the object surrounded by the cylindrical array of nano-needles. The UK this week also demonstrated what it called a cloaking system that uses uses cameras and projectors to beam images of the surrounding landscape onto a tank. In recent trials officials said it had made a vehicle completely disappear and predicted that an invisible tank would be ready for service by 2012.
Ok this one is still far away but the theories on it are getting closer and closer to being experimented with. At the heart of some of the current thinking is the so-called “hyperdrive” concept that won 2006’s American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics award for the best nuclear and future flight paper. The paper describes a concept that is baffling even to scientists but in the end it would build an engine that would let us go from here to Mars in about there hours.
The promise of painless needle injections lies with SonoPrep. According to the company’s Web site, the SonoPrep device is the brainchild of Robert Langer, an MIT-trained chemical engineer who hit upon a novel way to penetrate the skin’s outermost layer. Patients who get sonicated hear a soda-pop fizz and feel a slight tingling, but that’s it. In 15 seconds, the skin is properly perforated and ready to soak up meds.
Perhaps this technology has existed in some form in the past but Cisco’s telepresence package really does offer live shots of people pretty much from anywhere. As my colleague Linda Musthaler noted recently, in the original Star Trek show as well as all its derivatives, officers on the starship Enterprise are able to conjure a live image of a person on a huge screen and talk to that person in real-time. Though unconceivable in 1966, that kind of technology is on the market today. And it may soon come to your house.