How close is Star Wars tech from reality? Part 1

1977 was a memorable year. The first all-in-one home computer was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show, Apple Computers is founded, snow falls in Miami for the only time in recorded history, the space shuttle has its first test flight and Elvis Presley performs his final concert before dying later that year. All of that pales in comparison to what happened on May 25 when George Lucas took the world to a place a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away. The movie Star Wars changed the world. Since that day its fans have marveled at the technology used and have wondered, could it one day be a reality here? Yes, it can and we are getting closer to that day.

Some technology is nowhere close to happening. We are not going to be able to travel faster than light anytime soon, though scientists believe that it is now theoretically possible in certain circumstances and NASA is working on it. So the Millennium Falcon will not be built anytime soon. At the same time the construction of large vessels like Star Destroyers, Super Star Destroyers and the Death Star are very much beyond our capabilities at the time and probably for centuries in the future as well. That is not true of all Star Wars tech.

The Droids

One of the first characters that audiences met were the droids C-3PO and R2-D2. C-3PO was a protocol droid, who was well versed in the customs of many cultures, could speak a myriad of languages and could do quick risk assessment calculations that no one wanted to hear. R2-D2 seemed to be able to do it all except for being able to speak Basic (English). It could open any door, fly, shock an unsuspecting adversary or even swim. Combined the two of them were quite a team and proved their worth over the course of the Star Wars series. In 1977 a robot was science fiction, today that is not quite true. Robots have been in use for decades to help perform mundane tasks like building cars and in more modern times flipping hamburgers but only recently have they become more human-like. They can seemingly do any movement that a human can do and some can even gauge human emotions. C-3PO may not be too far off.

Holographic projections

Before C-3PO and R2-D2 escaped from Darth Vader and his Imperial Stormtroopers Princess Leia loaded a message onto R2 for Obi-Wan Kenobi. The droids were then placed in an escape pod and sent to the surface to Tatooine. There they eventually met young Luke Skywalker who eventually took them to see Kenobi. Skywalker was shown a snippet of a holographic message and Kenobi saw the full message, asking him to take the plans for the Death Star and deliver them to the Rebel Alliance.

Holographic technology was unimaginable in 1977 but today it is here. Scientists have been able to manipulate particles in the air to create images. They were able to create a moving image of a butterfly and it is completely three dimensional meaning it can be viewed from any angle. Know as volumetric display, it is controlled by the light from lasers and is more crisp and clearer than a holographic image. The laser light changes the air pressure thereby trapping particles allowing for them to be manipulated. Nice to know if you ever need to send a distress call to someone!

May the Fourth Be With You!

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