The best science fiction, and some of the only mediocre stuff, has long been an inspiration for great leaps of innovation and improvements since at least the 1960s, the original Star Trek series being responsible, at least indirectly, for the invention of the cellular telephone (there are now cases to make them look like the old-style Star Fleet communicators), hissing automatic doors that open on approach.

There have even been successful experiments recently in basic teleportation as used in the transporter and we are getting closer all the time to Holodecks. Hoverboards – not the nasty, flammable, Segways without handle bars passed off as ‘hoverboards’ but the real thing – already have working prototypes.

It’s impossible… nevermind, it’s possible

Something that many people for many years thought to be ‘impossible’, ‘that’s impossible’ apparently being one of the most favorite mottos of the scientific establishment. It is a similar case for hyper fast pod trains, dubbed hyperloops, most of the claims to being able to have a usable passenger model being supported – but at least one company, Hyperloop One, are already testing prototypes.

Remember the robot hand fused onto Luke Skywalker’s wrist near the end of Empire Strikes Back? While not quite that fleshy and realistic looking, there does exist a slightly scarier looking metal robot version. Most recent film up for the real-life treatment is James ‘What is a Budget’ Cameron’s Dances With Wolves-with-blue-people epic Avatar. 

Is the Earth moving?

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The South Korean robotMethod-2, brought into existence by the brainy folks over at Hanook Mirae Technology in South Korea looks like it could be the world’s most realistic film prop. Except it actually works – the13 foot tall, 1.5 ton robot frame able to take a human operator inside the purpose-built cockpit and walk with a human-like fluidity, the weight of the frame making the walls shake with each step. While long metal arms end in a five-fingered hand rather than a laser-cannon the effect is still rather intimidating.

Watch out Kim! South Korea has robots!

Fittingly and somewhat frighteningly given the current geo-political context, the first major steps into a workable robotic vehicle were taken in South Korea. The little nation that could, which is attached to North Korea, where people are still convinced that they won the last World Cup. While never shy about making claims regarding fictional technologies and capabilities, Kim Jong-un (North Korea’s dictator) is more than likely just a bit thrown to have what amounts to a batte-bot thundering about basically on his door step.

More than might

While scaring the sillies out of your closest enemy, at least in terms of proximity, is both fun and satisfying, there are considerations for such a device aside from breaking bones and taking names. There are countless disaster scenarios in which such a device would be invaluable to rescue and even prevention efforts, depending on the exact context. There could also be applications for some of the more high-risk jobs such as smelting, mining and chemical working depending on exactly how the hand controls can get and how well the frame can be armored without compromising mobility.

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Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.

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