I'm sure you've already seen, and then re-seen, Star Wars: The Force Awakens this past weekend.
You've probably also played LightSaber Escape on Google Chrome more than a dozen times. And I'm guessing you're lounging at home in your Jedi costume humming the theme song right about now, right? (It's okay, all the hype, fandom, and excitement burned me out, too).
In 1977, when the first Star Wars film came out, most of the technologies, machinery, and concepts in the film (R2D2?) seemed like a fantasy we'd only dream about. But now, nearly 40 years later, dozens of startups are succeeding in making these fantasies come to life. Here are 5 startups that are pushing us into the next millennium:
Remember Elysium? It's that Matt Damon film where in 2154 the rich and powerful flee from poverty-ridden Earth and relocate to a space station in Earth's orbit. But the most exciting part isn't that humankind has conquered space (!), but rather that there's incredibly advanced technology on Elysium that humans successfully innovated--like the machines that can cure fatal diseases within seconds.
This is the kind of futuristic technology that SQream is pushing for. SQream Technologies has developed an extremely fast big data analytics database that, because it's powered by graphic processing units, crunches data at unbelievable speeds. This means, researching potential cancer cures, which notoriously takes years and years of loading, analyzing, and comparing massive quantities of post-sequenced genomic data, is shortened into just days and even minutes.
But there are more use cases than just genomics, as any organization (literally any, it's super cost effective) that requires massive data crunching can benefit from SQream's revolutionary technology. After all, this futuristic processor is the closest we've got to reaching Elysium here on Earth.
In nearly every futuristic movie, from Star Wars to Iron Man, the characters are almost always playing with holograms, using their hands to swish holographic content, press holographic buttons, and zoom in on holographic images.
And while in the past few years, several companies have attempted to tackle holography, RealView Imaging has succeeded in creating a holographic display and interface system that doesn't even require special eyewear.
Today, RealView Imaging is focused on disrupting the medical industry, enabling doctors to understand and inspect their patient's anatomy by recreating real-time holographic images of their patient's internal organs. The projected 3D image floats freely in mid-air and is interactive, meaning doctors can touch and manipulate it--much more revolutionary and ground-breaking than the Tupac hologram we met in 2012.
Think about Futurama's opening sequence: flying cars, people traveling throughout the city in tubes and pods. Well, this is skyTran. It sounds completely farfetched (and crazy expensive?!) that a system of automated maglev capsules running on elevated rails might actually become the norm.
But in late 2016, Tel Aviv will become the first city to implement this surprisingly cheap public transportation alternative. If you actually think about, building something like skyTran, which is speculated to be about $10M per mile, is much more cost efficient than dedicating billions to constructing underground subways or light rails.
Plus, one day, passengers will be able to order pods to show up wherever they're waiting. In addition to launching us into the future, there's no doubt skyTran will at least solve the terrible traffic in Tel Aviv. (Personally, I can't wait. The blueprint shows a stop right next to my office!)
Let's rewind to the early 1970s: bell-bottom jeans, disco dancing, and of course, The Six Million Dollar Man. In the television series, Steve Austin was a NASA astronaut injured in a violent crash and given bionic implants to survive.
Suddenly, he was able to run lightning fast, lift trucks in the air, and see things clearly from miles away. ReWalk Robotics is doing something similar--they've developed a robotic exoskeleton, giving paraplegics the ability to stand upright, walk, turn and climb up and down stairs.
Its technology offers user-initiated mobility, meaning a computer-based control system and motion sensors detect where the user would like to go and what he'd like to do. And while ReWalk isn't too concerned with developing super-vision anytime soon, they're certainly doing their part giving super powers to those who need it most.
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning The Matrix. Fortunately, we haven't gotten to the point where intelligent machines are trying to enslave the human population by forcibly plugging us into a simulated reality. Well, yet.
That's where Improbable comes in. Improbable is developing an operating system that powers amazingly complex simulated worlds. In the beginning, Improbable focused on the gaming industry, aimed at creating a simulated reality where its creatures and characters lived normal and very real lives, whether or not the player was actually online. However, its founders recognized that there are dozens of additional use cases in which simulated worlds and cities are particularly valuable.
Currently, Improbable is creating a real-time simulated London, hoping industry professionals, ranging from city planners to disease specialists, will be able to explore and solve real world problems. So far, the use cases seem pretty pro-human. Let's hope it stays this way.