Top ten skiffy gizmos verging on reality

Paul Raven @ 27-01-2009

Either it’s a slow week over at New Scientist, or they decided to throw us science fictional types a bone… either way, we’ll point out their top ten list of science fiction gadgets and devices that are nearing reality*.

As such lists do, it includes the gloriously impractical (e.g. the long-fabled jetpack) alongside a couple of genuinely useful items (like a universal audio translator and an artificial gill for breathing under water).

It’s a shame there aren’t more things like reliable sources of drinkable water, effective renewable energy generators and cures for diseases… but that’s us science fiction geeks for you, always with our head in the clouds. If you could pick any sf-nal technology to make a reality, what would it be?

* It would appear, possibly unsurprisingly, that the New Scientist definition of ‘reality’ is one that includes you having a lot of money.


STARA airdrop device

Tom James @ 17-11-2008

Reading about this courier device puts me in mind of an event in Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling:

To avoid the bad guys, high-flying planes can release Stara’s Mosquito. Its customizable cylinder, which can handle up to 150 pounds, contains a GPS unit and servomotor for steering the parachute to a drop site up to 2 miles away.

Actuators cut loose the payload at a preset altitude (from 50 to 1,500 feet). This way, anyone tracking the chute will end up as much as a half mile from the goods, which may be camouflaged as, say, a fist-sized rock.

The company is promoting the $10,000 Mosquito for special forces deliveries — money, passports, blood packets.

In Heavy Weather a character orders certain products which are couriered across the countryside by a monopedal robot – but the principle of ordering stuff via your satphone and having it delivered to any GPS coordinates in the world strikes me as very cool.

[on Wired][image from STARA Technologies inc]


Pedestrian power: prototype power-source footwear

Paul Raven @ 21-10-2008

There’s nothing worse than being halfway through a long walk around the city only to have your MP3 player run out of juice[1]. Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep it charged up just by walking?

Japanese electronics company NTT Docomo evidently thinks so, as they’ve been showing off a prototype shoe that can generate 1.2 Watts of power through the motion of their wearer.

Docomo power source shoe prototype

Spiraltwist at grinding.be neatly sums up my feelings: “Concept is excellent, design needs to be refined.” That said, Docomo reckons the finished version will be on the market by 2010, by which time there’ll be plenty more pocket-sized gimcracks to plug it into… provided they have compatible plugs and sockets, natch. [image from linked DVICE article]

While we’re on the subject of wearable tech, Gizmodo has a round-up of geeksome gadgetry that means you can have your cyberpunk future rightfreakingnow… provided you don’t mind looking like a fool. I mean, trousers with a keyboard and speakers built in? Come on… [via Hack-a-Day]

[ 1 – OK, there are plainly plenty of things worse than this, but I thought I’d go for upbeat today; it’s a Tuesday, after all. ]


NEW FICTION: THE RIGHT PEOPLE by Adam Rakunas

Paul Raven @ 01-10-2008

Imagine what high school would have been like if dealing drugs had been legal when licensed, mobile social networking had been ubiquitous and the in-crowd had more leverage than most political parties… what would the smart-but-slightly-crazy outcasts end up doing?

In Adam Rakunas‘s novella “The Right People”, they’re in the lucrative but precarious position of selling clandestine bootleg sex toys to the overachievers, but the rug is about to be pulled out from under their operation…

It’s simultaneously a slice of full-bore gonzo science fiction blended with a Brat Pack movie, and a timely metaphor for the present presidential tussle, and Futurismic is very proud to present “The Right People” as Adam’s first fiction sale – in fact, I think we’re lucky to have found him first!

Do be warned, though – this one’s definitely not for the very young or the easily offended!

The Right People

by Adam Rakunas

So, it’s Wednesday after school, delivery time, and we’re doing the usual: I’m checking invoices on my cell, and G.R.’s violating the safety parameters of our merchandise.

“Gene,” he says, gripping the pickup’s wheel with one sweaty hand and his cell in the other, “check this out.” G.R. thumbs the keypad until his torso makes an unnatural beep, and then he sprouts breasts.

No. One breast. Right in the middle. A grin spreads on G.R.’s ruddy face like mildew on a locker room floor as he unbuttons his shirt, revealing a pink, rubbery udder.

I shake my head. “G.R., you know the rules.”

His smile wilts. “But–”

“No playing with the product in public.” I thumb in an override code, and the Pleasure Chest (we boosted this review model from my parents’ samples before leaving the house) sags to its default flatness. “You gotta be discreet.” Continue reading “NEW FICTION: THE RIGHT PEOPLE by Adam Rakunas”


Water-propelled jetpack patented

Paul Raven @ 28-08-2007

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the room who’s always wanted a jetpack. But they’re dangerous things; not only due to the risk of flying out of control and doing yourself a serious injury, but to the potential of the engine exploding while strapped to your back. A new patent for a water-propelled jetpack removes the latter risk, leaving you at the mercy of nothing but your own piloting skills … which, considering it will only be usable over bodies of water, might not be as much of a problem as it could be. And while we’re on the subject of propulsion and fuel, a Scottish university is studying the possibility of using brewery by-products to make biofuels for car engines. I’ll drink to that.


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