Real Tech or 'Star Trek'?

By: Patrick J. Kiger

Real Tech or 'Star Trek'?
Image: CBS via Getty Images

About This Quiz

Which of the imagined 23rd-century gadgets from the original "Star Trek" and its movie and TV sequels remain futuristic, and which technologies have already been invented? Try our quiz.
The universal translator, which enabled the Enterprise crew to instantly understand aliens
Real tech
We do have electronic gadgets that laborously translate spoken words from foreign languages to English, but they only work on pre-set languages, and the process is nowhere as smooth and effortless as it was on the TV series.
"Star Trek"

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Warp drive, which enabled the Enterprise to travel the enormous distances between stars quickly
Real tech
"Star Trek"
Though physicists have theorized that warping space-time to enable faster-than-light travel might be possible, we don't yet have the ability to generate the incredible amounts of energy needed to try it.

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The tricorder, Spock's handheld device for measuring conditions on alien planets
Real Tech
Spock used the tricorder to check everything from atmospheric composition to the presence of diseases. NASA actually has developed a handheld device called LOCAD, used by astronauts on the International Space Station, that can detect potentially dangerous microorganisms.
"Star Trek"

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Teleportation, which enabled Captain Kirk to utter his trademark line, "Beam me up, Scotty!"
Real tech
"Star Trek"
In 2004, scientists actually succeeded in scanning an atom and reproducing it at a distant location. But teleporting something composed of many particles, such as a person, still eludes them.

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Phasers, the powerful rayguns used by the Enterprise to defend itself against hostile forces
Real tech
The phasers depicted in "Star Trek" are some sort of generic high-energy beam that can blast targets. The U.S. military already has phaser-like stun weapons that use microwaves to cause a painful sensation, and military laser weapons are in development.
"Star Trek"

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The holodeck, a room in a starship that actually simulated another physical environment
Real tech
"Star Trek"
The holodeck, depicted in the series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," included objects made of virtual "holomatter." That goes way beyond present virtual reality simulations, which essentially are sensory illusions.

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Healing rays, which Starfleet doctors used to cure diseases and treat injuries
Real tech
"Star Trek"
In "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Dr. Crusher used rays to treat patients. While physicians use lasers to perform surgery, we don't yet have the abilities of Dr. Crusher's device.

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Deflector shields, which protected the Federation's starships from attack
Real tech
"Star Trek"
The Enterprise can put up electromagnetic shields to block attacks. While we have the ability to deflect electrically charged objects, we don’t yet have anything close to the Enterprise's capabilities.

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Talking computers that conversed with Starfleet captains in natural language
Real tech
Federation starships had talking computers with artificial intelligence capabilites. While our computers aren't quite as powerful, text-to-speech software already is a reality.
"Star Trek"

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Cloaking devices, which hid starships from detection by enemies
Real tech
Federation starships had the ability to render themselves invisible. Researchers recently have demonstrated the ability to guide light around objects, which eventually may result in a practical invisiblity technology.
"Star Trek"

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Artificial gravity inside starships
Real tech
"Star Trek"
The Starship Enterprise had artificial gravity that simulated the normal environment of a planet such as Earth. NASA says it doesn’t have anything close to that yet, though the generation of artificial graviton particles is imaginable.

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Androids such as Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
Real tech
"Star Trek"
While researchers are creating androids that can perform simple tasks and mimic people in a limited away, a sophisticated manlike-machine such as Data is still beyond our capabilities.

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Matter-antimatter power generation, which helped propel Federation starships
Real tech
"Star Trek"
While the mixing of matter and antimatter theoretically could generate power for a future starship, we're nowhere near that ability yet.

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Sensors, which allowed the Enterprise crew to detect information about distant worlds before they sent a landing party down to the surface
Real tech
The Entreprise's crew utilized powerful sensors that could detect information from distant objects at faster-than-light speed. That's quite a bit beyond our present technology, but we do have sophisticated sensing devices that can gather data on magnetic fields, radioactivity and vibration, and imaging technology that can create three-dimensional pictures of the interiors of objects, including the human body.
"Star Trek"

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Tractor beams, which allowed a spacecraft to capture another smaller craft and pull it closer
Real tech
"Star Trek"
While researchers envision creating powerful magnets to tow objects through space, an energy beam that could pull spacecraft is still beyond anything we are capable of building.

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Bioneural circuitry, which allowed starship computers to function like brains rather than machines
Real tech
The starship's computer in "Star Trek: Voyager" incorporated circuitry that mimicked how actual brain cells function chemically. Scientists already are developing such biologically based computers.
"Star Trek"

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Hyposprays, which allowed Starfleet doctors to give needle-less injections of drugs
Real tech
Federation star fleet doctors were able to inject drugs into the body without using a hypodermic needle. Researchers actually have developed a similar technology, which utilizes near-supersonic air.
"Star Trek"

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Nanites -- tiny robots that go inside the body to treat a patient
Real tech
Starfleet doctors also could insert microscopic robotic devices into patients' bodies. Researchers actually are experimenting with using such devices to attack cancer cells.
"Star Trek"

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Fabric body armor (as worn by Klingon fighters)
Real tech
In the "Star Trek" universe, Klingon soldiers wore clothes that doubled as body armor. Researchers already have developed fabric made of carbon nanotubes that is cabable of stopping projectiles.
"Star Trek"

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Interstellar spacecraft (i.e., the Enterprise)
Real tech
"Star Trek"
We don’t yet have giant spacecraft that could journey between star systems.

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You Got:
/20
CBS via Getty Images
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