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May the 4th be with you: Star Wars tech that actually exists

04 May 2017

As we celebrate Star Wars day we take a look at some of the amazing space-age technology from the films, and you might be surprised to find out that some of it is more than just science fiction.

Holograms

Long before texting and email were the go-to for instant communication, Princess Leia was sending holograms like it was no big deal. The hologram message she sent to Obi-Wan of course set in motion a rather large chain of events resulting in one of the most popular film franchises of all time.

As it turns out, a professor at the University of Arizona actually created a holographic the first holographic message without the need for 3D glasses or any other wearables back in 2010. Nasser Peyghambarian used 16 cameras to capture an image of the ‘message’ which is then encoded into a laser beam. The laser beam interferes with yet another laser beam to project the holographic message.

Bionic Limbs

When Luke Skywalker tragically lost his hand battling Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes back, space technology was able to provide him with a slick new limb.

3D printed limbs have been a viable source of prosthetics for some time now. There are a number of organisations working to create prosthetics via 3D printing for those in need, such as the Enabling the Future community.

 

Battle Droids

The dispensable battle droids of the Star Wars universe were super handy for sparing human lives in battle, and also provided great targets for Jedis with vastly superior combat skills.

Military robots have technically been used dating back to World War II, but these days they’re getting a bit more serious. Several countries have already produced prototypes of robots designed for actual combat, as well as a variety of other purposes including transport and rescue.

 

Friendly Robots

On the other end of the droid spectrum, we have fan favourites R2-D2 and C-3PO. Equally helpful and comedic, these robots were the faithful sidekicks across the entire series.

The most notable friendly robot is Honda’s Asimo, created in 2000. The rather delightful ASIMO has the ability to recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, its surrounding environment, sounds and faces, and as a result can interact with humans. ASIMO can even detect handshakes and waving motions, and responds accordingly.

 

Lightsabers

Human kind as a whole would be a massive failure if we failed to construct functioning Jedi weaponry. One of the most iconic weapons in film history, the lightsaber can cut through anything with a single swing of bright coloured light.

While physicists and scientists say such a weapon can never be created because light can never stay frozen in space (it scatters), laser weapons are being researched for military purposes. There’s a flying 'lightsaber' called the Airborne Laser that’s a 747 that has been modified to emit a continuous beam of light. There are also several companies working on portable laser weapons for the U.S. Army. While closer to a plasma gun, the technology is getting excitingly close to bringing us actual lightsabers.

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