6 Shockingly Affordable Sci-Fi Inventions
As we here at Cracked are fond of pointing out, technological advancements are causing real life and science fiction to overlap in increasingly interesting ways. Still, most of the really cool gear must cost a fortune and a half ... right?
Actually, no. A lot of this stuff that not too long ago was only available in your daydreams is actually well within an average person's budget. And if it's outside of yours, who would ever deny you a loan once they hear you're going to use it for ...
A Zero-Gravity Flight
Seriously, gravity is the worst. There's a reason why when we design a superhero, the first thing we do is give him the ability to fly, or at least glide, like Batman does. If you had a switch in your house that would let you turn off the gravity and just drift around, we're guessing you'd never turn it back on.
"It's great until you try to masturbate. Then it's fucking incredible."
But only a fraction of humans in the history of the species have ever experienced weightlessness, considering it requires you to go to freaking outer space, and that you need a lifetime of astronaut training to achieve it. Or, you can do it right here on Earth, for less than the price of a 65-inch LED TV.
You might have heard that when NASA astronauts are training for zero-G conditions, they go up in one of NASA's wonderfully nicknamed "vomit comets." They are special fixed-wing aircraft that are able to induce a state of temporary weightlessness by flying in a series of tight parabolic arcs (basically, going up and down and up again really quickly). This gives the passengers approximately 25 seconds of total weightlessness at a time.
"You'll want to use a hustler on the way up."
Well, you don't have to work for NASA to experience that. There is a private company called Zero G Corporation, and they have their very own vomit comet in the form of a customized Boeing 727-200. They call it the goddamn G-FORCE ONE, and holy shit yes you can ride it.
You can even get married on it.
For less than $5,000, you get a short training session, a flight with a total of eight minutes of weightlessness, a signed copy of the space tourists handbook ... and a hat. The hat is important.
The actual weightlessness part is just moments of your life, and the whole experience is but a day. But the hat will remain. You can wear it as a trophy every day of your life, secure in the knowledge that for an eight-minute period, you fought physics and freaking won.
Ladies, this could be you!
An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Predator drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles are seeing action in Iraq and Afghanistan, piloted from the ground in a comfy chair in a manner that a bystander could mistake for a guy playing a video game. For most people, buying a Predator drone to survey the skies and vanquish their enemies seems like overkill. Those people clearly aren't fans of Cracked, and as such are dead wrong.
"We were using one of the screens to play WoW, but the general got real pissed."
It's true -- for less than the price of a decent car, you, too, can have what is essentially a military grade UAV scanner. For the connoisseur who prefers scouting your enemy at his own base, an extra investment of just a few hundred dollars will buy the long distance airplane version. The company doesn't specifically mention where you can fit the minigun and homing missiles, so we'll just assume they're open for negotiation.
You could probably fit a flamethrower right where that camera's sitting.
What they do mention is that both versions of the UAV can be equipped with an HD-quality camera capable of both hi-res pictures and video footage. Hell, for a little extra, you can attach a thermal imaging option. So basically this gives you the opportunity to roam the real world like a video game, using the UAV as your character, and take screencaps from the best bits of its rampage. Or, if you're not a violent person, you can enjoy the sensation of flight without the risk of crashing.
Also, imagine the look on that census guy's face when a large helicopter robot rises from your backyard to chase him back to his car. See those Jehovah's Witnesses break the world record for the 100-meter dash-the-fuck-away. Or, hell, just paint "SKYNET" on the thing's side and unleash it in a movie theater during a Terminator matinee.
We're one smartphone app away from the greatest breakthrough in stalking history.
Really, the only drawback we can imagine for this product is that you're more likely to be attacked by bounty hunter types in futuristic armor who mistake you for their final boss. Which, with a goddamn UAV at your disposal, you totally can be.
A Matter Replicator
As we've discussed before, the day that we come up with matter replicators is the day that the global economy shuts down. Not only has humanity gotten one step closer to that, but also it has chosen to do so in the exact way you imagined when you were 8 years old. Meet the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic:
Name courtesy of Bill Watterson.
Wait, what the hell? No way can that be a real product. That looks like an unfinished set piece for a Futurama live-action movie, for crying out loud!
But real it is, and work it does. Granted, it's not quite at the level where it can crank out, say, edible hamburgers or flawless diamond rings like you see in Star Trek and whatnot, but it is a huge step in that direction, and cheaper than a new sofa. It is what they call a 3-D printer -- it literally "prints" actual physical objects.
At this point, we're about five product generations away from the end of the economy.
All you have to do is design a 3-D model using a program provided with the machine and send the data over to your MakerBot, then it brings your model to life. It uses something called Makerbot Plastic, with the machine putting layer upon layer of the stuff together until the desired item is produced. And you can manufacture whatever shapes you want -- be it boobs, a new part for your ceiling fan, boobs, a scale replica of the Enterprise or even boobs. If you're feeling lazy, you can just download one of the designs that are user-uploaded to their website and bring it to life.
Boobs are also an option, in case you were unaware.
Designers of the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic boast that the machine is completely automated, reliable and very easy to use. And better yet, this isn't one of those situations where you pre-order the thing and just hope like hell that the project takes off and they actually start making them -- you can buy your own 3-D printer right now.
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.
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:
Sadly, those missiles will do nothing to silence your co-worker's Justin Bieber ringtone.
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.
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.