The robot's teeth marks have healed, and you return to the battlefield of the future, encouraged because your sergeant has told you that the new Transformer TX will be entering service soon. Can it be? You haven't dared to imagine Transformers would have a place on the battlefield since you were 13 or so.
Before you get too excited about this one, though, we have to clear something up. A Transformer is a car that transforms into a giant robot and saves the universe. A Transformer TX, on the other hand, is a car that transforms into ... well, a car, only with wings and helicopter blades.
And that's pretty much it. It's kind of the Transformer you drew on the back of your notebook when you were eight. It's a jeep with helicopter parts stuck to it. The entire concept for this one is, "Let's put helicopter parts on a Humvee and see what happens!" Then someone else said, "Wait ... what if we add wings to it, too?" and everyone in the room just started clapping.
"Johnson, you genius."
This was commissioned by DARPA, which means they literally don't give a shit how ridiculous it looks. DARPA is the Pentagon's research wing, and its mission is "to prevent technological surprise to the U.S." which means it's paid to seriously consider every single idea that comes its way, no matter how stupid it sounds. It's only natural that the researchers' common sense should become atrophied after a while. The problem is that sometimes those ideas get approved, and DARPA ends up adding giant dinosaur legs to a submarine or something. But in this case, it could've been much worse -- here's a rival bid for the Transformer TX:
That looks like rejected concept art for a 1968 film called 2010: When Everything is Helicopters.
The Transformer TX is capable of seating four people and has an automated takeoff system, which means that soldiers don't have to know how to pilot a plane to get it off the ground. How do they land it if none of them has aviator skills, you ask? Well, um ...
"They don't. They live in the sky and have wild adventures."
"Johnson, you're on fire today."
The Pentagon hopes to get some prototypes in the air by 2015, which is real lucky, because we heard we won't be roads by then.
So you're still a soldier of the future, and you're on a mission where you need to stealthily swim behind enemy lines, hopefully ending the trip by slowly emerging from the tide with a knife in your teeth. But you're not just swimming, because this is THE FUTURE. No, you'll be using a Powerswim.
Aka "The Dick Glider."
Like the Kitty Corner Shot, the Powerswim is a relatively simple contraption: It's a "human-powered swimming device" capable of making swimmers move 150 percent faster than normal with the same amount of effort. It was designed by DARPA to help Navy SEALs reach their destinations quickly without the use of a submarine, a motor propeller or anything else that is cool.
Nope, this shit is old hat.
But what's so ridiculous about it? Well, for starters, it makes you look like a giant dork, as the head of the project kindly demonstrates in this mine of unintentional comedy gold:
He even mentions bringing the Powerswim to his pool and teaching 25 people to use it, in what was probably the saddest birthday party ever.
"I'm a genie in a bottle. ... It helps if you sing it, guys."
There's also the small inconvenience none of the articles or videos about the Powerswim thinks to mention: the fact that it seems to be constantly slapping your junk.
"It's actually quite pleasurable."
The Powerswim was designed to be swiftly removed mid-swim and dumped in the sea, like in case someone else swims by and you're ashamed to be seen in it. We also can't imagine it being that easy to take off, unlike the piece of equipment it's meant to replace:
The Powerswim 1.0.
The Powerswim is "currently in the packaging stage," as the Pentagon's top scientists presumably try to figure out how they fuck the can fit this thing into a decent-size box and, if possible, design a logo that doesn't look completely ridiculous.
The only thing that would look sillier would be, we don't know, shoving the swimmer inside a torpedo and firing him at the enemy.
Ah, here we go. As you find yourself zipping through the water in a huge bullet, this will be the precise point at which you, the soldier of the future, realize you are living in a Wile E Coyote cartoon.
The Underwater Express is either a submarine shaped like a torpedo or a torpedo capable of carrying people inside it, depending on how you prefer to think of it. This thing can go twice as fast as the fastest submarine in the world, leaving a trail of exploding dolphins and baby seals in its path.
"There has to be some way we can make sailing hundreds of feet underwater in a metal can less safe."
How is this possible? Well, the Underwater Express uses something called "supercavitation," which is when a bubble of gas is formed around a speeding object, allowing it to move much faster than it should. This effect is usually reserved for torpedoes, which, as a reminder, are commonly intended to crash into things and explode.
One of the big drawbacks for torpedoes that use this method (like the Russian Shkval) is that they're not super-good when it comes to maneuverability and steering. It's bad enough when we're talking a big block of explosives, but what about when they're transporting important stuff like, oh, people? In fact, they're currently testing a 100-knot prototype of the Underwater Express just to see if they can steer it at all.
The fact that this thing looks like a bullet isn't exactly encouraging.
If all goes well, the military plans to set up a comprehensive network of human torpedoes ferrying people and materials across large bodies of water, totally not crashing into one another. The Underwater Express was conceived by (you guessed it) DARPA, probably after someone there saw this poster:
"Who is that man and how is he doing that?! Find him now!"
Danny Vittore is a freelance writer. If for one reason or another you want to contact him, his email is Dannyvittore@gmail.com
For more insane ideas that are coming to life, check out 5 Famous Sci-Fi Weapons That They're Actually Building and 5 Amazing Buildings of the Future (And How They'll Kill You).
And stop by Linkstorm to David Wong fight an EATR robot.
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