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Star Trek: Nine ways our science is close to its science-fiction

OK, so Scotty can't beam us up. But, we do have communicators (cell phones), phasers (lasers), and voice recognition (Siri). Let's look at what we already have and what we might have within our lifetimes.
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NCC-1701 Enterprise

OK, so Scotty can't beat us up. But, we do have communicators (cell phones); phasers (lasers); and voice recognition (Siri). Let's take a look at what we already have and what we might have within our lifetimes.

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2 of 10 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Lasers/Phasers

Phasers: Lasers were already around when Star Trek first appeared on our TV screens, but they weren't weaponized. Today, they are.

The US Navy's Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is a directed-energy weapon deployed on the USS Ponce in 2014. Other laser weapons are on their way.

Set lasers for stun? No, we can't do that. But, for that we have tasers.

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Warp Drive

Warp Drive: We don't have it now, but Harold White of NASA has shown that a faster-than-light warp drive might just be possible. This Alcubierre Drive may yet enable us to travel to the stars.

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Uhura and her tablet

Tablets: Apple tried to patent the design of a tablet, but Star Trek showed us Personal Access Display Devices (PADD) back in Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS).

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Food Replicator exist today

Food Replicator: I still can't just say "Tea, Earl Gray, hot!" and get a cup of tea. But, in London, you can already go to Food Ink, where everything including the food is 3D printed.

At the rate 3D food printing is improving, I expect to see my tea appearing at my command before the decade's end.

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Voice recognition is already here

Voice Recognition: We still aren't quite up to Star Trek standards, but voice recognition comes built into Macs (Dictation and Siri), while Windows has Cortana. There's also the open-source Mycroft and Android's Google Now. Within the next few years, we should be up to Star Fleet standards.

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Communicators

Communicators. Most of us are only at ST:TOS levels of technology, aka smartphones. But Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG)-style communicator badges are just a Bluetooth connection away.

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No needles in our future

Hyposprays: When I was young, one of the things that most impressed me about ST:TOS was that they no longer needed needles to give you a shot. Well, it's too late to matter to me as much now, but a new MIT developmental device will soon enable us to easily give injections without breaking the skin.

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9 of 10 Steven Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Tricorder? The Scandu Scout

Tricoder: Our smartphones are getting smarter. They may not be able to scan our environments for Klingons, but they can do many of the same things as Bones' medical tricorder.

More advanced devices, like the beta Scandu Scout, can take your temperature, measure your heart rate and pulse oximetry, and they can check your blood pressure.

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Transparent Alum

Transparent Aluminum: I like this real-world technology because when I saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it seemed so unlikely. Scotty and McCoy traded the secret to its manufacture so they could build a whale tank suitable for transporting humpback whales into the future. I mean transparent metal! Come on! Well, it's here.

This alumimum-based ceramic spinnel is well on its way to appearing in many common products. Watch for it.

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