Everyone agrees that Star Wars tech is extremely cool, but we have to accept that it only exists in the movies. However, some scientists and engineers aren’t content with letting that happen and are developing tech that could have come from a galaxy far, far away. Lightsabers have been an integral part of Star Wars since the very beginning and there’s no denying that watching an epic lights a beer battle on the big screen is awesome. But everybody knows that a sword made of light could never actually become a reality.
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Well, there actually might be a way. Researchers have discovered a process that makes particles of light called photonic matter behave like lightsabers. The science behind photonic matter is intricate and complex, so we’ll spare you the gory details. Basically, photons have no mass, but if you shoot them through super-cooled rubidium gas, then they’ll interact as though they do have mass.
Photonic matter isn’t just an interesting science experiment, it has real life implications. Since the light is acting like a molecule, it can get shaped into whatever scientists want. Researcher Mikhail Luk in has proposed making crystals out of pure light and, once you’re making crystals, it’s not a huge leap to makings words of light. It seems far fetched right now but one day we might look back with nostalgia at this…cutting-edge innovation. “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” After Darth Vader cut off Luke’s hand in The Empire Strikes Back, it was quickly replaced by futuristic space technology.
In the 1980s, Luke’s fictional hand was way better than anything in the real world, having enough motor control and neural feedback to let him battle with lightsabers, swing heroically from ropes, and even fight a Rancor with a bone. Clearly, the scientists at DARPA were influenced by Star Wars, because when they unveiled a sophisticated robotic arm, they named it the Luke Arm. The biggest problem with any prosthesis is that it doesn’t interact with the brain.
DARPA changed that by using a series of ultra-small electrodes that run from the prosthetic limb into the remaining muscles. All these little electrodes allow neural signals to run through the live arm into the fake one. DARPA’s limbs can move and function just like any other limb. Even crazier is how these electrodes allow for feedback from the limb. With the Luke arm, users can regain a limited sense of touch, which is extremely helpful for everyday things, like zipping up a bag or, if need be, taking a swing at an evil emperor.
Artificial intelligence in the Star Wars Universes far more complex than today’s real-life AI. However, leading tech researchers aren’t ready to get outsmarted by a fictional movie series, so they’re working hard to develop robots that wouldn’t seem out of place in Star Wars. NASA, for instance, is pushing to create real-life astromancy droids like R2-D2. The idea is that these robot mechanics can work on the International Space Station, alongside flesh-and-blood astronauts. One of NASA’s most interesting creations in this area is Robocat 2. This extraordinary robot has already gone to space to test the feasibility of robots working with humans in a zero gravity environment.
While Robonaut 2 is humanoid shaped, his role still mimics what R2 did in the movies, and NASA isn’t very subtle about where they got their inspiration. “Robonaut 2, or R2 for short, is one of these advanced robotic capabilities being developed.” Other types of Star Wars robots are also making their way into our lives. Robotic surgery systems help physicians by handling surgical tools much more precisely than any human doctor could.
Also, vehicles like self-driving cars previously only existed in science fiction, like all the droid controlled vehicles in the Star Wars Universe. As more robots hit the market every year, slowly transforming our world, we can only hope that they have the demeanor of R2-D2or BB-8. Regardless of how helpful or friendly robots become, some people will never adjust to a life full of droids. “Just remember…” “Yeah, no droids. I heard ya. Don’t have to say it twice.
Geez. Womp rat!” One of the coolest parts of Star Wars is the epic space battles, such as the Millennium Falcon and Star Destroyers bombarding each other with laser weaponry. While big engagements like the Battle of Endearer a long ways off, the US military is already putting laser weapons on their ships. For years, the Navy has been testing its aptly named “Laser Weapon System,” also known as Laws. Currently, it isn’t designed for massive battles in outer space, but rather for defense.
Laws can intercept incoming anti-ship missiles or enemy drones, heating up their exterior with laser light until they explode. Laws is also capable of disabling small boats. Not content with letting the Navy take all the science fiction glory, other branches of the US military have started testing laser weapons. The US Army has something called a High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator that can accurately target rockets or drones, while the Air Force has tested a laser capable of shooting small bursts of energy, which sounds an awful lot like weaponry that can be found on an X-wing. In the prequels, we saw vast armies of robots on the attack.
The militaries of Earth haven’t achieved that level of technology yet but they do use unmanned aerial vehicles for missions too dangerous for human pilots. While these drones still need a human operator to fly them, Northrop Grumman wants to change that with their experimental X-47B, an autonomous robot fighter. The X-47B has already completed a number of feats once considered impossible for robots.
It’s even landed on an aircraft carrier all by itself. For now, the X-47B is just a technology demonstrator, but it has proved that autonomous robot fighters work, and they work well. Flight crews have nicknamed the X-47B “Ceylon” which is a little concerning. Let’s just hope that the Ceylon’s stay on outside. Putting aside future intergalactic diplomacy for a moment, a version of C-3PO on our planet would be insanely helpful for the translations alone.
“How many languages do you speak?” “I am fluent in over six million forms of communication, and can readily-” “Splendid.” Here on Earth, an artificial translator with skills like Three poi would need to have an extremely sophisticated neural network to decode the source language and instantly translate it into another. With recent developments in artificial intelligence, researchers believe that we’re not too far off. However, a company called Waverly Labs thinks that it can be accomplished without using artificial intelligence. They developed Pilot Earbuds, a system that runs through a smartphone and deciphers languages.
When two parties are wearing the earbuds, a Bluetooth interface will connect them, translating the language directly into audible words. Details on how the Pilot system actually workshare still scarce, but it is one step closer to a real-life C-3PO, without all the whining. “We seemed to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.” At eleven feet tall and driven like a tank, the Walking Truck was developed in the 1960s by General Electric for the Army.
Testing, however, soon unveiled it could only reach a top speed of five miles per hour and it had huge problems with stability. Essentially, the Walking Truck had the same issues as the AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back. Enemies just needed harpoons and tow cables to bring them down. Inspired by the Walking Truck, the production crew of The Empire Strikes Back came up with the AT-AT walker. This is one of the few times in Star Wars that the tech was based on something that already existed. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about movies and technology are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell so you don’t miss a single one.