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THE FUTURE IS HERE—5 TIMES SCIENCE LOOKS AND SOUNDS LIKE SCIENCE FICTION

Whenever we think of what our future looks like, most of us will probably imagine a world where androids, public space travel and laser weapons are a reality. At least I know I would. And yet, we’ve been thinking of a future like that since the 80s probably, and one might think that hey, it’s 2015, where’s that future? 

Well, now that it is 2015, said type of future might be a little closer.

Maybe we won’t be living in a Star Trek-ish universe soon enough, but these scientific achievements you will be reading about now look like they come straight from your favourite sci-fi show. 

Are you ready? Here we go:

5. Smartphone Tattoos by Motorola
If you plan on getting a tattoo on your neck, if you wait a few more years, it could turn out to be much more useful than just for good looks. Apparently, Motorola filed a patent for a design for an electronic tattoo that you can link to your smartphone. The patent filing states that the tattoo would include a microphone, a transceiver, power supply and a controller. With a description like that, it sounds like you’ll soon be able to use your phone without even taking it out of your pocket.

4. “Spider Sense” Suit
Ever wish you could tell when something you don’t see is going to hit you? You know… like Peter Parker. Well, with this suit you can kind of be Spider-Man, except you don’t need to be bitten by a spider. Victor Mateevitsi from the University of Illinois created a series of sensors that operate as a “spider-sense”—they’re comprised in tiny robotic arms that detect nearby objects which exert a certain amount of pressure on the skin. The suit has seven different sensors, so the wearer would know the direction the objects come from. Mateevitsi plans to make his suit accessible for the public, since one of its benefits could be for blind people for example.

3. 3D Printed Car
Cars—one of the most important ways of transport in human society. Now what if instead of having thousands of little robots handling heavy steel, we’d have 3D printers spraying molten polymer layer by layer until the whole car is done. This is exactly what Jim Kor has been engineering, and he calls it the Urbee. Your new car is going to be as strong as your current one, but it’s going to weight half of it. That translates to less weight to push, which means more miles per gallon. Of course the engine and base chassis will be metal, but at a first glance, it seems like the Urbee has only advantages, right? Maybe we are getting closer to actual floating cars like in the 5th Element...

2. Implanting Memories
Humanity isn’t happy unless we find a new way to tamper with our brains. This time, researchers have found a way to implant false memories into mice. Memories are created through certain brain cells in the hippocampus, so the way to implant new memories is by stimulating those brain cells. They put the mice into a chamber where they were given foot shocks, and later put them in another one where they were not, and then stimulated their brain cells. Surprise, the mice reacted in fear in the second chamber, too, even if there was no pain. False memories have been a thing in humans more than once, but this might give us a hint as to how humans form false memories… or how to implant them on others...

1. Robot Skin that Responds to Touch
A research team has created an electronic skin that responds to touch by lighting up. The more pressure, the brighter the light it emits. In addition to giving robots a better sense of touch, the engineers think the e-skin could also work as wallpapers that double as touchscreen displays and dashboard laminates for cars, for example, or even as e-skin bandages that monitor blood pressure and pulse rates. Since it’s not stiff, it can be applied on any surface. The lab is now in the process of making the e-skin sensors respond to temperature and light as well as pressure.

Was that enough of a glimpse into our sci-fi-like future? Well, while you wait for this to become true, you can be amazed by your favourite sci-fi with a touch of actual science on StarTalk, hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson and with many surprising guests, premiering in April on NatGeo!
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