Much of the supposedly impossible technology shown in the Star Trek franchise is currently being used by the general population or is being developed at a much swifter rate than the writers of the show could ever have imagined. The technology depicted is often shown to be tools and equipment that can drastically improve the life of all people.
A tricorder is depicted in the shows and movies as a multi function tool, often used for scanning and collecting information from a research perspective which in turn can be used for diagnosing medical issues. An organisation called The Tricorder Project has developed two versions of the device which has been highly inspired by the look of the Star Trek version. These devices provide electromagnetic, atmospheric and various spacial awareness sensors that offer various scanning opportunities. A third and fourth device is currently being worked on by The Tricorder Project.
Researches at Purdue University have also worked on a tricorder inspired device. It is an extremely fast, portable chemical analysis device that includes a miniature mass-spectrometer and a system called DESI, a ‘Desorption ElectroSpray Ionization’. The system has been able to analyze clothes and food. DESI has also managed to detect the presence of cocaine on a bank note.
Replicators are shown as a device that materialized food and other smaller objects seemingly out of thin air. A lot of background information has been given on them, but an exact replicator replica is still a long way off. Modern technology however, has shown a device that can use 3D printing devices to print food products. With swiftly decreasing prices of 3D printers for both food and other objects, replicators are looking more and more realistic.
The Universal Translator, used all throughout the franchise, is a device used to instantly translate any known language into the native language of the user. The device is incredibly similar to translator programs such as Google Translate. Other translation programs are readily available on computers, tablets and phones, making it easier break language barriers and connect with people all over the world.
Tablet-like devices, called the PADD, are used in the Star Trek universe. The PADD is used for accessing information, collecting information and a variety of other work and leisure based functions. The PADD featured a large touchscreen and minimal buttons, much like the variety of tablets we have today. Internet connected tablets have similar abilities to the original PADD, as well as containing even more information and functions.
Finally, voice responsive technology. On Star Trek, the computer is a device that “stored, organized, and displayed information, calculated data, and processed commands input by sentient users”. The computers processed basic and advanced functions that assisted in the running of large starships, possessed extensive information, much like the internet, and responded verbally to any command or query inputted verbally by users. Very similar, though not as extensive technology exists today in voice command technology, available on many devices such as phones, tablets and personal computers. Such technology includes Apple’s Siri program, which allows the user to verbally control many functions on their phones or other capable devices. A more recently released program by Windows, called Cortana has very similar capabilities.
Although science fiction can be criticized as highly illogical, we have to give credit to Star Trek for being realistic about technological advances in society. Science fiction can show a positive view for the future and inspire thousands of people to work towards a common goal of a happy future for all people (and aliens!).