3 seemingly impossible inventions in fiction that have come to life in the 21st century

These days, you can make VR viewers with just cardboard and the help of online tutorials. Slot your phone in and be whisked off to another world! Or buy pre-made ones if lazy.

When watching or reading anything sci-fi or fantasy, a lot of our time is spent marveling at gadgets beyond out of our reach that we’d love to have. Play-fights with siblings using imaginary light sabers still happen today, and many of us would probably waste no time fulfilling our Jedi dreams if they we could.

For now, though, you can wave your (replica) lightsabers at The Saber Legion, and read on to find out how modern technology has made progress toward making such inventions a reality!

1a) Picture book entry shoes from Doraemon

Gosh, are these every writer’s wanderlust stricken person’s dream or what? Appearing in Doraemon: Nobita’s Dorabian Nights, these shoes allow their wearers to enter the world of a storybook to experience it first-hand! Want to explore Wizarding Britain but have resigned yourself to Muggle-dom? Slip these on and whisk yourself to the World of Magic!

Nobita’s Dorabian Nights

Nobita and pals in Sinbad’s world, traversing Baghdad to save the trapped Shizuka in Doraemon: Nobita’s Dorabian Nights.

However, as any wise time or dimension traveller would know, you’re not supposed to interfere or interact with characters and objects within: doing so could cause major problems in timelines and events. That’s bad news if you get yourself trapped within so don’t lose your shoes like Shizuka, ever.

(Image credits: Doraemon wiki)
(Image credits: Doraemon wiki)

While we don’t have these IRL (and maybe never), we do have a counterpart that’s equally wondrous:

1b) Virtual Reality

Never underestimate your imagination, because many gadgets we use today have been imagined within, or inspired by, fictional tales. Tales that we put to paper or the screen. Ready Player One comes to mind.

According to the Franklin Institute, the foundations for VR technology began long before the Oculus Rift was conceived. One such ‘predecessor’ was the stereoscope which, when used to look at two pictures of the same object or scene taken at slightly different angles, would lead to a 3-dimensional view.

A stereoscope and its pictures
A stereoscope and its pictures

Today, VR is being used to not only train soldiers through virtual environments, but also to create realistic environments for games and rides. More and more ways that VR can help improve and innovate are being discovered all the time, and we might find it an irreplaceable existence not too long in the future.

2a) The Replicator from Star Trek


Replicators were so magical in the world of Star Trek that, for the sake of good storytelling, some of the show’s writers tried to pretend that this technology didn’t exist.

For good reason, too: which person wouldn’t make good use of something that’s able to materialize almost any inanimate object out of pure energy?  The best part? All you need to do is push a button, or issue a voice command. It’s a perfect fits for all those seeking smart homes.

While the possibility of replicators materializing could be light years away, we have made enormous strides! Today, ask someone on the street and they’d probably know about…

2b) 3D printers

3D printers

Unlike replicators, 3D printers need existing matter and a digital 3D design file to create objects. Given what they can be used to create —ranging from homes to prosthetics— they’re still really amazing.

3D printers have helped reduce costs for anyone who needs to make a prototype, because they no longer have to go through manufacturers (who tend to require minimum quantities) or spend on materials. They also cut down the amount of time needed to create something. Have an idea? Design a digital file, use the 3D printer, and have something tangible to test out within a day! Even casual tinkerers can make something in the comfort of their home with an affordable 3D printer!

How does this directly impact us? We get to use this handy technology in our school labs to design prototypes for projects, or to create interesting projects. SUTD has a huge 3D printer in their Fabrication Lab, and we know that both NUS and NTU have research centres for 3d printing.  PSB Academy’s new STEM campus will also have 3D printers in their computer science and engineering labs, which students can look forward to!

3) Hoverboards popularized by Back to the Future


Does anyone else remember watching the Back to the Future trilogy, the movies that introduced a generation to hoverboards and time machines?

The sight of Marty McFly riding his neon pink Mattel hoverboard away from bullies was the stuff of dreams for many back in the day. Since sleek IPads and smartphones had yet to exist, this was a contraption to behold. Riding something stylish (style was different back then, okay) that could give us the feeling of freedom? Mm.

The creators of the movies envisioned the future to be really advanced, so when 2015, the year Marty rode the hoverboard (October 21, to be exact) swung around and no hoverboards were in sight…

Marty rode

Granted, a few companies and individuals tried to make them a reality. Most met with little success.

One company with fascinating results was Lexus, through their Amazing in Motion campaign. Their attempts to challenge themselves and innovate resulted in the SLIDE hoverboard. The SLIDE runs on liquid nitrogen cooled semiconductors and magnets.

The SLIDE, however, can only be utilized in a skate park custom-built in Barcelona, and would be too expensive for the general public even if it was released.

So, it seems, hoverboards à la Back in the Future still have a long way to go!

Do you have an invention that you dream of bringing to life, as well?

Being able to use updated and industry-relevant equipment would be helpful in your journey, and PSB Academy’s upcoming STEM Campus is here to help you achieve this goal!

Learn how to use AutoCAD and fiddle with precision engineering equipment, in the new computer science and technology labs. If you’re more of a Sports Science kind of person, get down to work with VX Sports’ new equipment through an exclusive partnership.

PSB Academy students will get

For a glimpse of what PSB Academy students will get to use during the course of their studies, sign up for their campus tour on 12 May to see things for yourself!


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