In a galaxy not so far away: 6 pieces of Star Wars tech that have (sort of) entered reality

Star Wars day has rolled around once again and to celebrate, we’re taking a look at some of the tech from the galaxy far, far away that has managed to find its way from fiction to reality.

While you won’t be making the Kessel Run for the foreseeable future, you could well see some of the below creeping more and more into everyday life. May the Fourth be with you.

R2-D2: The Knightscope security bot

Composite: Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox / Knightscope

So yes, R2 was technically meant for ships not security, but the films always hammered home that he is almost absurdly multipurpose. And while I’m not sure he ever showed any particular forensic capabilities as displayed by his real-life Knightscope counterpart, that little taser seems pretty handy for security jobs. Looking somewhere between R2 and a Dalek, the Knightscope bot is designed to put a bit more tech into the security field while removing human guards from potential harm’s way.

Take some of its capabilities in a somewhat less law enforcement direction and, until we have X-wings to stick him in, you practically have your very own friendly astromech.

Landspeeders/Hoverbikes: The Malloy Hoverbike

Composite: Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox / Malloy Aeronautics

I’m personally convinced that the hoverbikes of the Star Wars universe would result in far more deaths than the already risky motorbikes, given that they seem to travel at speeds your eyes would definitely struggle to keep up with. Seriously, why would you fly these things on a moon that is almost entirely forest?

However, that’s not to say we shouldn’t take influence from them and their more sedate cousin, the landspeeder, as with the Malloy Hoverbike. Utilising four rotors, the Hoverbike is able to fly to the same height and at the same speed as a typical light helicopter while also able to safely operate close to the ground. Just maybe steer clear of teddy bears.

Luke’s cybernetic hand: Bionic limbs

Composite: Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox / Cybathlon

Artificial limbs have been around for a while now but we’re still working towards the ideal shown with a cybernetic replacement like Luke Skywalker’s. We can replace a limb, but until it can work as smoothly as a real limb, we’ve still got a way to go.

However, the field is constantly advancing, even today a new bionic hand has been reported on that is able to “see” objects and instantly decide on the necessary grip. We’re not recommending limb loss, but it’s nice to know that should something horrific happen that perfect Luke cosplay is closer than ever.

Hologram communications: Microsoft’s HoloLens

Composite: Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox / Microsoft

It’s one of the most iconic moments in the franchise: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” However, while communication technology is pretty much steamrolling forward, we’re yet to have friends popping out of our phones with their messages.

Perhaps not for much longer though, as Microsoft’s HoloLens can be used to pull up Skype video calls as holographic panels or send short holographic scenes to friends. It can’t be too long before all those annoying memes can be projecting directly out to you rather than quietly sitting unread.

C-3PO: The Romeo humanoid robot

Composite: Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox / Aldebaran Robotics

He’s a little shorter than C-3PO, and knows a hell of a lot less languages, but the Romeo robot is one of the closer attempts we have to creating a humanoid robot for the purpose of companion-like assistance to humans.

Able to open doors, climb stairs and reach objects on a table, Romeo is not so much for helping fancy Senators or assuming deity over Ewoks, but is intended to work as an assistant to the elderly and those losing autonomy. However, stick a bunch more vocabulary into him and up the snootiness and you’ve got yourself a protocol droid.

Lightsabers: This flaming safety hazard of awesomeness

I don’t really know what can be said for this that the video doesn’t show off. It is a handle that mixes methanol and acetone before propelling them out of a nozzle at the top of the handle with butane.

A heated coil then sets the mix alight and you get a reasonable facsimile of a lightsabre. It won’t be melting through blast doors anytime soon, but for looks and risks to younglings alone, you’re unlikely to do much better.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC