Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

We may never have our flying cars, but there are some things that science fiction has predicted accurately. Here are some futuristic technologies that started as fiction and are now part of the real world.

Tablets

Arthur C. Clarke's NewsPad, from the 2001: Space Odyssey, 1968:

E-book readers

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

Opton from Return from the Stars, by Stanislaw Lem in 1961:

I spent the afternoon in a bookstore. There were no books in it. None had been printed for nearly half a century. And how I have looked forward to them, after the micro films that made up the library of the Prometheus! No such luck. No longer was it possible to browse among shelves, to weigh volumes in hand, to feel their heft, the promise of ponderous reading. The bookstore resembled, instead, an electronic laboratory. The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it. But optons were little used, the sales-robot told me. The public preferred lectons - like lectons read out loud, they could be set to any voice, tempo, and modulation. Only scientific publications having a very limited distribution were still printed, on a plastic imitation paper. Thus all my purchases fitted into one pocket, though there must have been almost three hundred titles. My handful of crystal corn - my books.

(via Amazon)

Plastic-eating bacteria became real in 2009

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

From The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, 1969:

– The organism...Mutated to a noninfectious form. And perhaps it is still mutating. Now it is no longer directly harmful to man, but it eats rubber gaskets.

– The airplane.

Hall nodded.

– National guardsmen could be on the ground, and not be harmed. But the pilot had his aircraft destroyed because the plastic was dissolved before his eyes.

A 16-year-old boy named Daniel Burd have discovered a plastic-consuming microorganism and introduced it at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa in May 2009, according to the Mother Nature Network (MNN).

(via Vladimir Melnik/Shutterstock)

Transparent Smartphone Prototype, Polytron Technologies, 2013

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

Transparent flat displays from Things To Come (1936), written by H. G. Wells (based on The Shape of Things to Come, 1933) and directed by William Cameron Menzies:

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

(via designboom)

A networked personal assistant with a speech recognition engine: introduced to iPhone users as "Siri" on April 28, 2010

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

The Joymaker from The Age of The Pussyfoot by Frederik Pohl in 1965:

"Self-programming" means that the programmed software includes procedures for translating most normal variations of voice, idiom, accent, and other variable modalities into a computer-oriented sim-script and thence into the mathematical expressions on which the computers operate. As long as your personal joymaker is within reception range of your voice, you may communicate via other shared-time transponders if you wish."

Pohl himself made the following statement in the afterword about the novel's world:

"I do not really think it will be that long. Not five centuries. Perhaps not even five decades."

(via Misen 23, cover art by Bruce Pennington)

Spray-On Clothes, 2000, by Fabrician Ltd.

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

Predicted in Return from the Stars, by Stanislaw Lem, 1961:

"With the clothes I had no luck. Of what I knew, almost nothing existed. At any rate, I discovered the secret of those mysterious bottles at the hotel, in the compartment with the sign "Bathrobes." Not only robes of that kind, but suits, socks, sweaters, underwear - everything was sprayed on. I could see how that might appeal to women, because by discharging from a few or a few dozen bottles a liquid that immediately set into fabrics with textures smooth or rough—velvet, fur, or pliable metal—they could have a new creation every time, each for one occasion only. Of course, not every woman did this for herself: there were special plasting salons (so that was what Nais did!), but the tight-fitting fashion that resulted from this did not much appeal to me..."

And in the Galactic Pot-Healer, by Philip K. Dick, 1969:

"In addition, she had one of the smallest waists he had ever seen, and in the permoform spray-foam blouse and pants this as well as the rest of her stood fully revealed."

(via Fabrican Ltd.)

Bluetooth headsets and wireless earbuds

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

The Seashell Radio from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, 1953:

And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.

(via Technovelgy)

3D printers

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

First seen in Star Trek TV series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager). Now you can print meat, any simple or complicated objects, but a fully-functionable handgun, too!

(via Foreign Affairs)

Videophones

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

The Phonotelephote, from In the Year 2889 by Jules Verne, 1889:

The first thing Mr. Smith does is activate his phonotelephote, the wires of which communicate with his Paris mansion. The telephote! Here is another great triumph of modern science. The transmission of speech is an old story; the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires is a thing but of yesterday. A valuable invention indeed; Mr. Smith this morning is full of blessings for the inventor, when by its aid he is able distinctly to see his wife despite her great distance.

Videophone concepts were really popular back in the 20th century, but now we have only the less cool FaceTime.

(via Apple)

Driverless pod cars in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, and United Arab Emirates, plus the ULTra cars at London's Heathrow Airport

JohnnyCab from Total Recall (1990, Paul Verhoeven):

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

(via TQSMagazine)

Automatic doors

Crazy Ideas that Made the Leap from Scifi to Reality

When the Sleeper Wakes, by H. G. Wells, 1910 – fifty years later it turned into reality:

"The two men addressed turned obediently, after one reluctant glance at Graham, and instead of going through the archway as he expected, walked straight to the dead wall of the apartment opposite the archway. And then came a strange thing; a long strip of this apparently solid wall rolled up with a snap, hung over the two retreating men and fell again, and immediately Graham was alone with the new comer and the purple-robed man with the flaxen beard."

(via Chris Drumm)

Special thanks to Technovelgy!