Welcome back to another episode of Serious Engineering for Serious Engineers. This is Part 2 of our look at product innovations inspired by Star Trek. In case you didn’t see Part 1 be sure and click the link, here:
We were talking about the original Star Trek, by the way, from 1966. Not to be confused with the Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Short Treks, Picard, the thirteen full length feature films or the 865 novels, short stories, serializations, omnibus editions and comic books.
In this episode we’re going to cover a few more innovations, some of them which are real and a few that are still in the process of being perfected and are just around the corner. Now, “To boldly go where no one has gone before!”
But first: “To go” is the infinitive form of the verb. “To boldly go” therefore places the modifier in the wrong location, causing the dreaded split infinitive. It should read “To go boldly”, placing the adverb immediately after the verb it modifies. Clearly English grammar in the 23rd century has fallen by the wayside. Ahem…
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy injected wry commentary and comic relief into many Star Trek adventures, when he wasn’t injecting Kirk or Spock with some life-saving elixir. But he didn’t use a needle; in fact, NBC censors of the time forbid the use of needles as too graphic and disturbing.
The hypospray wand allowed him to administer to his patients effortlessly, and these now exist as painless injectors using only air pressure to pierce the top layers of skin.
- Universal Translator
When travelling to strange star systems you’re bound to encounter beings who don’t speak English, with or without good grammar.
What to do? Carry your universal translator with you, that’s what.
This handy device automatically analyzes the target language and provides an immediate translation, greatly facilitating interstellar diplomacy.
Now we have translation software that can be downloaded as an app on a smartphone, along with voice-recognition AI software like Siri or Alexa that understands spoken commands in natural, context-based language. One step closer to universal understanding.
- Wireless Earbuds
The communication officer onboard the Enterprise was of course Lt. Uhura, who could be seen at her console forever trying to raise Starfleet Command on a sub-space frequency. And she wore a stylish, stainless-steel earbud that – dare we say – she rocked in the 23rd century. This was the first example of wireless earbuds, and not only was it revolutionary but no one has made it look better.
- 4. Holodeck
Now we get into the more speculative technologies that are still under development. In the Next Generation viewers were introduced to the Holodeck, a special room on the new Enterprise that not only created a realistic virtual environment but that also used fields of force to create solid objects. Many holodeck programs were used for fight training and to visit Sherlock Holmes’ 19th century England.
Now we have VR goggles to create the visual effects while haptic feedback sensors provide tactile sensations. We’re not quite at full immersion yet, but given the rate of progress on these technologies we suspect it won’t be far in the future.
- Subspace Communication
Every version of Star Trek makes use of subspace radio communication to send and receive messages much faster than the speed of light. Not instantaneous, but very fast. Communication, after all, is essential to keeping the Federation together over vast distances.
Now humanity is coming to terms with the strange world of quantum entanglement, a state of matter where two particles share an identical quantum state regardless of physical separation. This “spooky action at a distance” suggests the ability to share instant data between two points, but so far this is at the very limit of our understanding about how this phenomena works and how to exploit it. Rest assured, people are hard at work trying to make it so.
So, I hope you enjoyed watching that as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe, and send a comment below via coded subspace transmission and we’ll send an away team to investigate. Remember, we’re the folks that bring you Serious Engineering for Serious Engineers.
Warning: Side effects may include a desire to re-watch every movie and TV episode, dress up as your favorite Star Trek character, annoy friends and disturb family members by spontaneously shouting “Arm photon torpedoes!” at odd, random moments and building a life-sized replica of the bridge of the Enterprise in your basement rec room. Wait a minute, that last one seems like a great idea!