Engineering in Sci-fi

Some people who know me well I am a big geek and like anime and science fiction especially when they have mechs and incase you don’t know me I like anime and science fiction especially when they have mechs in them.

Right now I am currently looking at developing my own robotic systems and I am looking for inspiration for potential concepts. In fact a lot of great inventions that we use in everyday life have been inspired by science fiction.

I’m going to provide my top 5 list of inventions that were inspired by science fiction.

Debit/ Credit cards.

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In 1887 a novel titled Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy is a story about an American protagonist , Julian West, who fell asleep towards the end of the 19th century. He then wakes up and finds himself in the year 2000 where he witnesses that the US has become a socialist utopia. West discovers that money has been replaced and the government pay their citizens with “credit” cards.

While physical money is still used in 2016 we have become accustomed to buy products and services with credit and debit cards that are similar to Bellamy’s 1887 novel. Credit/debit cards have made purchases more convenient as we can buy products and services on line with cards.

USB Drives

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Again we can thank Star Trek for another invention and USB drives make this list as they were invaluable to me when I was a student. They allowed me to save work at college and university and continue to work at home. The isolinear chips in Star Trek were digital storage devices which are similar to today’s USB sticks.

Flip phone

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People who can remember mobile phones being massive bricks which then grew smaller and then somehow became larger with the introduction of touch screens. Back when mobile phones were introduced they weren’t really “mobile”. Then came along Motorola in 1996 who developed the flip phone which was not only the smallest, lightest but it came with the vibration feature. It was inspired by Star Trek’s communicator that was of similar design. The flip phone helped pave the way for small mobile phones that allowed us to communicate with each other without lunking around with massive phones.


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Telepresence was developed by science fiction author Robert A Heinlein who wrote a short story called Waldo in 1942. The story is about a man who was born too weak to lift his head up to drink or hold a spoon. With the help of his family’s fortune he is able to develop a device called waldoe which is a powerful mechanical hand that can be manipulated with a glove and harness.

The waldoes were an inspiration for teleoperated machines where the user can operate machines remotely. I have mentioned before in a previous blog post on how telepresence can have a major impact on our lives.


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Without rockets space flight wouldn’t have been possible and we wouldn’t have sent man on the moon. A lot of other modern inventions we use everyday were developed from space technology and we have Robert Goddard to thank for. Robert Goddard was a fan of science fiction and became inspired by H.G. Well’s 1897 novel The War of the Worlds. His fascination with science fiction helped him develop the liquid-fuelled rocket which was initially ridiculed. Despite the naysayers the first liquid fuelled rocket was successfully launched in 1926. Robert Goddard was famous with his phrase Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace”.

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