Self-parking cars, laser blasters, hoverboards — these scifi visions of the future have ignited imaginations for over a century. And while science fiction predictions aren’t always accurate, their impact on the scientists, engineers, and creators of the world can’t be understated. So while we may never truly crack time travel or lightsabers, it’s inspiring to see the tech world, the defense department, and companies like Nissan take cues from science fiction to truly bring the future to today. Follow along as we check out some of the coolest inventions that just might make you feel like you’re in a scifi flick.
It took ten minutes of screen time in The Empire Strikes Back for Luke Skywalker to go from getting his hand chopped off by Vader to getting a fleshy, realistic replacement. But achieving truly lifelike bionics in our world hasn’t been so easy. Now, thanks to Touch Bionics i-limb ultra, we’re closer to reaching Luke’s level of prosthesis functionality than ever before. These new prosthetics include so many amazing features, like varying grip strengths on a digit-by-digit level, helping those who need prosthetics reach even higher levels of motion accuracy and sensitivity.
A favorite of superheroic red-and-gold men of iron, the mechanized battle suit finds its way into all sorts of futuristic stories. Usually featuring built-in weaponry, flight capabilities, and incredible armor, these power suits evoke pure strength-through-technology. Today, this idea’s in development under U.S. Special Operations via the TALOS suit program. Featuring increased body protection and strength, as well as physiological systems that monitor everything from a soldier’s body temperature to their hydration levels, the TALOS program aims to bridge the gap between military scifi and reality.
A staple in science fiction since the early days of the “ray gun,” laser blasters are the preferred weapon of choice for everyone from smugglers to stormtroopers. And now the U.S. Navy’s getting in on the action too. Deployed on the USS Ponce is the world’s first active laser weapon, which shoots an almost-instantaneous and invisible laser at its target with extreme precision. Like Han Solo said, nothing compares to “a good blaster at your side, kid.”
Electric cars, first theorized way back in a scifi novel from 1894, used to be the stuff of purely speculative fiction. Over the years the electric vehicle has become a quick, easy way for scifi creators to convey a sense of clean-living futurism to their audiences. But reality is finally starting to catch up to fiction. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the world’s best-selling electric car¹, and over 2,000 quick charge stations currently span across the country². With 100% instant torque and zero tailpipe emissions, the Nissan LEAF drives like a car of the future.
Remember that time we joined a plucky teenager on his trip back to (a very futuristic) 2015, and the joy we all felt as he hopped on a neon-colored hoverboard and zipped around town? Since then, the dream of a hoverboard in real life has captivated scientists and inventors. We’ve seen everything from those flammable “hoverboards” that were all the rage a few years back to the impressive, constantly evolving Hendo Hoverboard. The future’s pretty rad, isn’t it Doc?
In the original Star Wars, one of the first looks we get at futuristic technology on land (and not just spaceships blasting through outer space) is Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder. Hovering slightly above the ground and zipping along the Jundland Wastes, the Landspeeder seemed all the more fantastic because of how grounded in reality it felt. But real as it felt, translating that hovering technology into the our world has been a bit of a challenge. Hovercrafts are big, loud, and not quite the sleek convertible glider we were promised, but they’re extremely useful in dangerous situations like hurricanes, so we’ll give them a pass for now.
When Luke Skywalker heads out in his X-Wing to take down the Death Star, he and his fellow pilots rely on a computer targeting system to help them make calculations and movements too fast for normal reactions. The idea of the “assistance computer” has since become a well-known scifi trope, but it’s also found its way into our world! Thanks to Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist³ systems available today in the new 2018 Nissan Rogue and in the upcoming 2018 Nissan LEAF⁴, drivers will be able to take some of the pressures off driving while on the highway. Think of it like “ultra cruise control.” ProPILOT Assist helps you maintain your speed, and can help keep you centered in your lane, while the full suite of Intelligent Mobility systems can alert you to trouble ahead. So until you, too, are able to listen to Obi-Wan and “use the Force” to guide your vehicle, we think it’s best you stick with ProPILOT Assist.
While you wait for pneumatic tube cities and off-world colonies on Mars, check out all the ways Nissan’s using cutting edge science to make the future a reality, today! And for a glimpse at the scifi world we may one day live in, be sure to catch Star Wars: The Last Jedi December 15 in theaters.
¹Based on cumulative sales data from Dec 2010 - June 2017.
²Public charging networks are provided by independent companies, and are not within Nissan’s control. Availability of charging stations not guaranteed.
³It is the driver’s responsibility to remain alert with hands on steering wheel, keeping a look out for other vehicles and pedestrians at all times.
⁴2018 Nissan LEAF is not yet available for purchase. Expected availability in early 2018.
Giaco Furino is a writer living and working in Brooklyn. He contributes frequently to The Creators Project, Tribeca Shortlist’s Outtake, Rhapsody magazine, and more.