Technologies

Artificial Gravity (across starships, starbases, and more)

Fictional Technology: The Artificial Gravity used throughout the numerous starships and the Death Star in this movie convey a widespread availability and distribution of the technology among virtually every space-faring vessel. Older and newer movies convey artificial gravity in the same way, usually by not explaining the technology; Dark Star and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan both convey artificial gravity as something to be taken for granted, and not to be thought about in the slightest- as if the technology was implicit. Moreso, the portrayal is not realistic, since it applies no centripetal force in any setting to generate that force, nor any other explanation given.

Automated repairs through droids

In Research Technology: The repairs that can be done on a computer system without human supervision is a technology that works in some situations but does not pan out in others. Most of the research humans have done on repairs with devices usually center around required maintenance, like highways, railways, nuclear reactors, and more. For repairs to be automated through a station, not only would there be a requirement for devices that could go and repair the broken component, but there would be a required level of robotics or monitoring software that can make a comprehensive list of all the broken aspects of a station at any time and relay commands to these robots. This is highly practical, just requires a significant amount of research and control on a system. Movies in the Star Trek saga and other futuristic movies across film’s history feature similar automation systems that assist with or complete repairs.

http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~leparker/publications/Handbook99.pdf

BioEnhancements (Vader’s Armor)

Darth Vader

Fictional Technology: Although there are many different forms life support systems take on, from assisted breathing machines, heart rate regulators (pacemakers), dialysis machines, etc., none of them allow the user to go about there day completely normally, in a way that the technology fades away into their lives, sustains itself, and requires little to no maintenance, in much the same way as Darth Vader’s Armor behaves. Many other life support systems and armor, like in Avatar, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man serve merely as armor, sometimes powered off another life support system, but not nearly as comprehensive as his suit. This portrayal is not realistic, as most of the systems on his suit, maintaining a pressure he could survive in alone, would not have enough space to generate the needed pressure. In all, his suit is impressive, but unrealistic for the suite of technologies it provides him.

Communications (Radios)

Existing/Current Technology: Unlike other technologies like Hyperspace, Comms are not taken for granted and in this movie, never travel faster than light. In much the same way as real world implementations, the communications used are either across a station and the design is pre-wired for all of the internal communications possible, or on a few radio channels for a small team to communicate, similar to how CB radios work, in the Death Star fighter showdown battle. Many other movies set in futuristic settings instead take Comms too far and have the communications travel faster than light as well, like the starships, but Star Wars has a much more grounded view of ship communications that provides it with a near-realistic depiction of them.

Death Star

Death Star

Fictional, Highly Impractical Technology: The Death Star is a space station the size of a small moon, designed to be an impenetrable fortress and symbol of Imperial power throughout the galaxy. The space station can move, traveling across the galaxy to mobilize Imperial forces practically anywhere in the galaxy within moments of a threat the Imperials deem worth their time to vanquish. The Death Star is capable of generating enough power through combining laser energy which is targeted at anything up to a planet, annihilating the target. This is truly a doomsday device for a galaxy, and with its incredible power becomes a symbol of Imperial power and instills fear in all who witness it.

Very rarely do similar technologies appear in other fictional works. Most doomsday devices are of much smaller scale, not as advanced, not as immense- comparatively lackluster. The materials alone to make a device of such size, let alone the research required to make it powerful enough to destroy a planet in an instant, make it incredibly impractical if not impossible in the first place.

Droids (with Artificial Intelligence)

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In Research, Fictional Technology: Droids with an indefinite power source to the user that are completely self-deterministic are featured in this movie, focused mostly around C-3PO and R2-D2. These droids are sentient, capable of varying levels of communication, relaying, and controlling different computer systems, and are incredibly knowledgeable about the universe they live in, providing others with contextually useful information and in many ways acting like a local cache of information from a larger, massive realm of knowledge in that universe. Not only are they personable, but they can share this information more contextually and without a prompt like a virtual intelligence such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa of today would.

Further, Droids are in many movies. Movies such as Star Trek: Insurrection show them to be similarly personable and knowledgeable with Commander Data, whereas other movies of the past show them to be more artificial and cobbled together; Star Wars drew a line with droid technology becoming more animate and more human, therefore making people take them more seriously as a technology and eventually achievable goal.

Homing Beacon

Existing/current Technology: The Homing Beacon is used in the movie to track the Millennium Falcon after it jumps away from the Death Star. Using this technology the Empire tracks them to the rebel base on Yavin IV across what can be assumed to be hundreds of light years. While the technology does not exist in that form specifically, it does exist currently on a more terrestrial scale. Your cell phone uses GPS and cell phone towers to triangulate a location to help you get from place to place. However, it is possible to access this location information without your permission, much like a homing beacon. Emergency services use this data to quickly send ambulances or police officers to your location, at a more accurate position than you may even know.

Hyperspace, or Faster than Light (FTL) Travel

Hyperspace

Fictional Technology: Hyperspace acts as faster than light travel to very distant star systems in a matter of hours, minutes, or seconds, that would take years to centuries through conventional means to cover the same parsecs. In the way that FTL travel is available in this world, with the ease of use and ability to move insanely massive objects, the technology has definitely been refined to the point of an incredible science. Like with Star Trek: The Motion Picture with ‘warp drive’ and so many other movies, this technology is not discussed in its function but is just assumed to have been figured out a long time ago, and is no longer a point of discussion. Needless to say, since moving any mass to beyond the speed of light is physically impossible, this technology is more than a little impractical for a real-world implementation.

Landspeeder

Landspeeder

Existing/current technology: Although not directly in existence and not exactly the same, hovercraft are similar enough to Landspeeders to qualify as an existing technology. The hovercraft tech has been around since before Star Wars, and is most definitely the inspiration of the design. Naturally, a more powerful, refined, and fast hovercraft expected from a futuristic setting is the vision conveyed here.

Lightsabers

Lightsaber_blue

Fictional Technology: Light sabers in the movie are the choice weapon of Obi-Wan and of Darth Vader. As the name denotes they are essentially swords made of light with a high intensity plasma that can cut through anything, which are able to slice flesh, deflect blaster fire,”unsheathe” at the touch of a button, and are extremely portable. This technology is pure science-fiction

Proton Torpedo/Guided Torpedo:

Protontorpedo

Fictional Technology with very Similar Technologies: The proton torpedo is by all means a technology that does not exist in real life with its fans proton explosion, despite the similarities that such an explosion shares with a nuclear device. Although the exact technology does not exist, very similar implementations​ with the detonation and guided missile technology that would be found on advanced Starships​ like X-Wings, is very similar to guided missile technology of the 1970s and more directly modern day with missile defense systems​ like the Iron Dome. Other movies, contemporary, like Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country with Photon Torpedos and far more modern ones that show real missiles, convey Torpedos that are dynamic, powerful, and fairly realistic to design.

Spacecraft

Existing/current technology: Though the technology portrayed in the film is superior, we have had ships with the ability to escape our planet’s atmosphere and traverse space since the 1960s. The spacecrafts in the film, however, have the ability to escape any atmosphere without disengaging any parts; this means they are always available for reuse as long as no parts are damaged. Additionally, the ships in the film are capable of faster than light travel (we discuss this technology further below).

Surveillance

Old technology: In a scene directly before rescuing Princess Leia, Han Solo and the others take extended effort to shoot out cameras and other surveillance systems in the cell block. This technology was definitely not particularly sophisticated, as the cameras would likely have seen everything up to that point, but could not transmit that worthwhile security footage to a commanding officer or the footage was stuck on a physical medium somewhere. In this case, the technology is definitely conveyed as old; most surveillance systems would be able to immediately notify anyone on that battle station within seconds of an event and stream the events before they were shot out, an implementation almost inconceivable by 1970s standards. Similarly aged movies were not much better, with manual reviewing of the footage of Spock’s sacrifice necessary in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock required, but later movies and tv shows implicitly giving crews information from data gathered on their sensors and surveillance systems.

Tractor beams

Fictional Technology: In the movie, the Death Star uses a tractor beam to capture the Millennium Falcon and pull it into a hangar. This technology is very fictional as there is no known method of physically moving a large object without some sort of large magnetic force, but even that would have messed with the electronic systems on the millennium falcon. The closest we have come to a non-damaging tractor beam is through the use of ultrasonic levitation. The device created through funding from the the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council was able to trap small objects such as fruit flies within the “beam.” However, this device is not practical at a larger scale due to the power requirements and even then it can’t pull or push objects, just hold them in place at a very close range.

http://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.4972407

Trash Compactor (automated)

Trash Compactor

Existing/current technology: The portrayal of an automated trash compactor is a little unrealistic given that the compactor is in the middle of a massive space station, but the concept is very much logical and similar to what would be used today, and in the 1970s. Furthermore, this tech exemplifies the many automated systems a large station like the Death Star would have, which were some level of futuristic for the 1970s. Many similar movies and TV shows, like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, suggested a similar amount of automation to the starship’s systems, but did not account for programming to be dynamic or otherwise connected to systems, such as monitoring ones, that have appeared in more modern movies, such as Star Trek: First Contact and more recently, video games such as Mass Effect.

Computer terminals like, everywhere (rare for the 1970s)

https://thehothspot.com/2015/11/07/han-solo-heros-journey/

Old technology: The portrayal of the terminals is the device that gain access to the computer mainframe and informations. There are different devices that used to interfaces with the computer terminal via wall socket, such as scomp links and rank cylinders.[2] In the movie, R2-D2 was able to hack into a terminal to stop Garbage Compactor. The computer terminals are existed today, even existed back to 1970s. However, the terminals today are designed with high level of security that are unlikely be hacked by a single plug in.

Droid-equivalent of a universal port

https://giphy.com/gifs/electrocuted-star-wars-1xbsuLrL6IycM

Fictional Technology with Similar Technologies: In the movie, R2-D2 plugged into the wall socket and gained access to all data of Death Star. That port is a universal port for all droids. Today, most of electronic devices have similar ports. USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an industry standard to connect computers to other peripheral devices and were incorporated in most computers. Currently, there isn’t a single universal port that on every devices. That might because of security issues and the difficulties or unnecessary to create such port.

Droid communication language

Fictional Technology: In the movie, R2-D2 beeped to communicate. Instead of a technology, it is more like a new language and seems not very hard to invent. The reason it does not currently exist may be it is not an ideal way for devices communicate with each other. Nowadays, devices share information through internet, blue tooth or some hard cable. Making sound seems to be unnecessary and is redundant and ineffective in the machines communication.

Universal translator droid

Existing/current technology: The C-3PO was an interpreter that demonstrated his ability to translate the binary language(R2-D2) to English and also said he could speak Bocce. In fact, the protocol droids are capable of six million forms communication.[3] Although the translator droids are not prevalent today, the translation technology exist and used in the daily life like Google Translate which launched in 2006 supporting 103 languages [4] and in 2016, it switched to the Neural Machine Translation, where it “translates whole sentences at a time, rather than just piece by piece. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar.”[4] The translation quality of current technologies may not be as high as the translator droids provided in the movie and also current technologies are more about translating the text instead of the conversation. It also involves of the speech recognition which is also currently an rapid improving technology.

Reference:
[1]http://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/1.4972407
[2]Computer Terminal, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Computer_terminal
[3]3PO-series protocol droid,Wookieepedia, retrieved from http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/3PO-series_protocol_droid
[4]Barak Turovsky, Found in translation: More accurate, fluent sentences in Google Translate, https://blog.google/products/translate/found-translation-more-accurate-fluent-sentences-google-translate/

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