Not many people know that Star Trek is credited with the first interracial kiss on American television, nor that it was praised by Dr. Martin Luther King for providing great role models, nor that it played a small part in easing tensions during the Cold War. What’s even harder to believe is that the iconic T.V. series is about to celebrate its 45th anniversary. It should come as no surprise that a Venn diagram consisting of “tech bloggers” and “Star Trek nerds” would overlap almost perfectly, and many have been celebrating the anniversary by seeing how well we in 2011 size up compared to the writers’ imaginations in the original series.
We’re still a long way from developing inertial dampeners and warp speed drives, of course, but many fans have called attention to Star Trek’s invention of the flip-phone, the 3-D printer, or the hypo-spray. Some have even suggested it was the creators of Star Trek who first had the idea for the iPad, and it’s likewise worth noting that, perhaps inevitably, there’s an app that turns the iPad into the show’s PADD (“Personal Access Display Device”).
But how well do mobile apps stack up against the show’s better-known technologies? The video calls available through Apple’s FaceTime certainly capture the essence of communication in the 23rd century and, if you’ve ever been in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, Google Translate is about as close as we can come with present technology to Star Trek’s universal translator. And while the host of stargazing apps available for purchase might not be able to warn you when there are Klingons off the starboard bow, they can effortlessly identify just about everything else in the Heavens. Perhaps one of the more impressive apps out there transforms your smartphone into a tricorder, giving you sensor readings for gravitational field and acceleration, your local magnetic field, the acoustics around you, your global position and direction (GPS information), and the electromagnetic fields.
It’s nice to bear witness to humanity’s dreams becoming technological realities in only half a century and here at AppMuse we’re certainly looking forward to what the future might hold. With any luck, the smartphones of 2056 will come with a “stun” setting.