From reel to real life: Star Trek tech that could turn into reality

A dashboard that allows crew members in Star Trek Beyond to pull data together from various sources. (Image: HPE)

A dashboard that allows crew members in Star Trek Beyond to pull data together from various sources. (Image: HPE)

SINGAPORE: For Asian Star Trek fans, Jul 21 is the date they have been waiting for. It is, after all, when the latest installment in the long-running movie franchise - Star Trek Beyond - will be premiered in many regional markets. 

Helmed by Fast and Furious director Justin Lin, the movie features stars such as Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Zachary Quinto, as well as the final appearance of Anton Yelchin, who died last month in a car accident. 

But besides the stars and action sequences - a trademark of Lin's - the technology featured in the movie also takes a look into what computing could possibly achieve in the future. In particular, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) collaborated with Paramount Pictures to showcase The Machine - an ambitious research project to imagine how technology will look like more than 200 years into the future.  

 

Here are three such innovations from The Machine that could become a reality in the future: 

PHOTONICS

Essentially, photonics is the use of light for communications instead of traditional copper wires. Mr Kirk Bresniker, HP Labs Chief Architect at HPE, told Channel NewsAsia in an email interview that to transmit information over copper wires currently is cheap but inefficient. 

"Launch 100 electrons down a network cable and only a couple of per cent of the energy you spend makes it to the other end; the rest are lost as heat and radio interference," Mr Bresniker explained. "Photons are great because they can travel very far without loss."   

As such, HPE, via The Machine, is looking at using miniscule lasers on microchips to convert electrical signals to light, and back again, to achieve energy efficiency and lower latency - the time taken for a packet of information to be sent to its destination and back on a network.

Photonics is being eyed up as the low-cost, highly efficient option for communications. (Photo: HPE)

Photonics is being eyed up as the low-cost, highly efficient option for communications. (Photo: HPE)

MESH COMPUTING

Imagine the ability for your T-shirt or clothing in general to be able to process data - and send outlier results to, say, healthcare providers in the event of a medical emergency.

This, said Mr Bresniker, could become a possibility with The Machine, as it has low power consumption levels and huge data storage capability. The sensors embedded in these processors could share vital signals to doctors in real time. 

"We already have glimpses of that with current fitness trackers. However fitness trackers need to communicate via Bluetooth and mobile phones. Again, using the mesh computing approach, communication could be guaranteed nearly everywhere, and lives could be saved," the HP Labs Chief Architect explained.  

DIAGNOSTIC WRAP

This was one of three conceptual technologies developed for the film that is underpinned by the technologies mentioned above. 

A sketch of how the Diagnostic Wrap could function in terms of assessing the health of an "alien, human or android". (Image: HPE)

A sketch of how the Diagnostic Wrap could function in terms of assessing the health of an "alien, human or android". (Image: HPE)

The Diagnostic Wrap is a futuristic take on how enterprise hardware and software can be integrated, and it was designed to tap on the vast amounts of data being generated constantly as well as the information being fed back via machines, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), according to HPE. 

What does that mean in practical terms? A dashboard to assess the health of one's space-travelling craft and everyone on it?

- CNA/kk