#3. A Universal Translator
The fixer of many a plot hole, the universal translator is, in one way or another, a key element of pretty much every sci-fi movie released since the original Star Trek series. Forget about having to learn a foreign language -- you just talk into the machine, and it turns around and translates for you on the fly. It's the type of thing that, if real, would seem to completely revolutionize travel, business and pretty much everything else having to do with cross-cultural interaction. It also sounds less like something that could exist and more like a tool for lazy screenwriters.
Now, thanks to modern advancements, mankind has finally created a working universal translator. And by finally, we mean 10 years ago. Ever since its release in 2001, this device, called Phraselator, has been an essential part of the U.S. Army's various engagements in the Middle East. Yes, the Army. That's why you probably haven't heard about it up until now. But in 2009, an improved version bearing the improbable name of SQU.ID SQ.200, or Squid for short, was released for anyone to buy.
No matter how far you travel, you'll be able to prank call the locals.
You just set it to the language of the person you're speaking to and its voice-recognition software figures out what you just said, drawing from a huge list of phrases in the other language (you can download up to 100,000 phrases), then broadcasts it to whoever you're conversing with. The device is voice-to-voice, hands-free and eye-free. You just hang it on your neck and turn it on. Order a sandwich in French? Mais oui. Comment on a movie in Swedish? Ja. Discuss Shakespeare in Urdu? Fuckin' jee han!
Combine the Phraselator with Wikipedia for slightly delayed omnipotence.
#2. Augmented Reality Goggles
Augmented reality, or AR for short, is in a way leaps and bounds beyond virtual reality; instead of just sticking your head inside a video game, AR technology blends the real world and digital objects in real time. It brings digital characters and objects into your real life.
Never again will you look at Lake Helen, Florida, without knowing it.
It's true that certain phones and the Nintendo 3DS game system can do this on a really limited basis. For instance, you can look at your room through your 3DS screen, and it can add a digital object or character to the environment. So, as long as you are looking through the 3DS, you have a little cartoon character dancing in the middle of the floor of your office.
"Finally, I can watch a crappy cartoon 'me' dance awkwardly on the carpet. The future is now."
But what would be really cool is a device that truly integrates the digital and real world, so that from your point of view, they are one and the same. To your eyes, a little dancing robot exists on your desk, in three dimensions ....
"Bonzi Buddy will live again, greater and more terrible than ever before."
That is possible thanks to the Wrap 920AR, the first commercially available pair of augmented reality goggles. If you are looking to design or build something, you could use them to make a fully 3-D "model" appear in mid-air:
Then you can turn it and manipulate it however you like. With a tap, you can see what it looks like with different paint jobs, or get an exploded view of its components.
And what you're seeing is 3-D in the truest sense of the word -- instead of relying on the headache-inducing tricks other 3-D devices use to give the illusion of depth, the 920AR actually feeds your eyes different views of an object. That means that the image will look as 3-D and real to you as anything else that you see.
As with any new piece of hardware, it's all about seeing what kind of software the developers make for it -- the possibilities are pretty much unlimited (we're not going to mention the porn, but seriously, think of the porn). And yes, you can play Crysis with it.
Your new dragon sidekick won't judge you for dropping $1,900 on a pair of fancy goggles.
#1. Your Own Satellite Launched Into Orbit
We're still generations away from space travel being something any middle class family could save up for, but you can send up your own unmanned vehicle, in the form of a satellite. And you can do it right now, for $8,000.
A practical choice for the supervillain on a budget.
A company called Interorbital Systems will attach a satellite to a Neptune 30 rocket and send it into orbit, all for about the price of a motorcycle.
The satellite will then circle the Earth for a few weeks, taking pictures of space or whatever, before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up.
And the best part of this whole thing? The satellites are ultra customizable. They actually give the physical satellite kit to you before launch ... and you can modify the shit out of it.
You can paint it to resemble a giant dong. You can download software of your choice on it, or pimp it in whatever way your deranged imagination comes up with. And all the data from whatever it is you make it do up there is sent directly to your home computer.
Add a good camera and time it right, and you could have candid pictures of the ISS crew after hours.
Some of the possible uses listed on the website are Earth-from-space video imaging, space experiments, space art and even space burials. They don't actually state that lasers or giant sun-blocking screenshields are an option, but we're more than happy to make that statement for them.
The company isn't just operating some complicated scam, either; they have already launched their first rocket, taking 32 satellites successfully into orbit (you can see a list of its occupants here). Also, they are taking orders for the next batch of satellites right now.
If you can spare $10,000 a gram, they're also pre-selling moon rocks.
Expect at least a few of those to bear Cracked insignia and to start drawing giant dongs on the face of the Earth with giant murder lasers the very second they settle on their orbit. Otherwise, why bother?
For more cool toys that can be yours, check out 5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home and The 12 Most Insane Things You Can Buy on the Internet.