5 Star Wars Technologies That are Being Developed in Real Life
Reviews for The Rise of Skywalker are in and it's a mixed bag. Did anyone expect anything else from the most divisive film series of recent times?
It's the movie saga's immense popularity that makes it so controversial, with millions of different people wanting the series to live up to their own expectations.
Instead of discussing the film, however, we're here to look at the science behind Star Wars, and how much of it is realistic, and even being developed today.
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1. Battle Droids
Droids are a staple of the Star Wars saga. There are the cute ones like R2-D2 and BB-8, the smart-ass ones like Rogue One's K2SO, and then there are the Terminator-like battle droids that are prominent in the prequel trilogy.
As C3-P0's character famously states, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Maybe we should all have a bad feeling. Robots like, Boston Dynamics' Atlas is showing incredible athleticism, and the field of robotics, in general, is progressing in leaps and bounds.
It's progressing so much in fact, that thousands of academics, scientists, and engineers have signed a petition as part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.
2. Holographic displays
One of the most awe-inspiring technologies to appear in the original Star Wars film was the hologram, which played a crucial part in the plot. When Luke Skywalker finds R2-D2, an unprompted holographic message is relayed by the droid from Princess Leia to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
This message set the whole Skywalker saga in motion, which, forty years later sees the release of its final chapter.
Today, we might not have the capability to communicate via hologram images, though we might be getting closer. One example is the "tactile" hologram pictured above, which was developed by researchers at the School of Engineering and Informatics of the University of Sussex.
“Even though we have yet to match the Rebel Alliance’s communications capability, our prototype has come the closest yet and opened up a host of other exciting opportunities in the process," Dr. Ryuji Hirayama, lead author of the research paper, said in a press release.
Much like with holograms, we are seeing early models being made that might one day be developed into something resembling the technology we see in the Star Wars universe.
Models such as the Scorpion 3 (video below), and the Lazareth LMV 496 essentially use drone-like propellers to create a hovering effect. This is, of course, a far cry from the type of tech on display in the movies.
We all have to start somewhere. This might be the spark that will light the fire, that will burn the traditional automotive industry down — or at least gradually replace it over a very extended period.
4. Bionic arms
Another big technology that has played a big part in the story of Luke Skywalker is the bionic arm. In the Empire Strikes Back, Skywalker has his arm cut off by Darth Vader. At the end of the movie, we see him being given a new bionic arm.
In The Last Jedi, meanwhile, a new prosthetic arm gives Skywalker a more robotic look.
Bionic prosthetics are a technology that is remarkably close to the movies in real life. In fact, a few current examples were inspired by Star Wars.
Bristol-based prosthetics company Open Bionics creates futuristic-looking bionic arms, which are aimed at making their wearers feel like their heroes from the movies.
Luke Skywalker himself even recorded a message for other users of bionic arms out there.
5. Laser Canons
The Death Star is a machine that can destroy planets with a huge laser canon. And laser beams, rather than bullets, are the weapon of choice in the Star Wars movies.
Thankfully, we're very far from seeing such a weapon in real life, though laser weapons are being developed.
The U.S. Army’s ATHENA system, for example, can be used to shoot down drones.
In 2017, Lockheed Martin signed a contract with the U.S. Army to develop lasers for fighter jets that could take down missiles and, eventually, other jets. The system could be operational by 2021.
Bonus: The lightsaber?
The lightsaber — will we ever see the likes of it in real life? Most likely not, if we're to believe famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Renowned physicist Brian Cox has also had his say, and he thinks it might one day be possible.
Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that if lightsabers are made of light, they "would not stop one another in the way two swords would in a swashbuckling encounter" as seen in the movies.
Professor Cox begs to differ, however. He believes that this is possible through a process called photon-photon scattering, in which photons bounce off of each other at very high energies.
See the two scientists debate the likelihood of the lightsaber below.
While the technology of Star Wars still mainly lies in people's dreams — shattered though they may be for some by the new movie — we are living in a world where sci-fi and real-life increasingly converge.
Though many of these technologies are still in the early stages of their development, we all have to start somewhere. As Yoda wisely once said, "do or do not. There is no try."
A new Brazilian study seems to suggest it does, so we asked scientists for their thoughts.