Science fiction has naturally given us a wealth of technological inspiration, from video calls to Roombas, though not all of our advancements are coming to the home. Advancements in medical technology could mean more lives are saved, thanks to gadgets from the big and small screen. Below are four tech innovations that might save our lives in the near future.
Cryogenics has long been seen as the pursuit of the super-rich to prolong their life, becoming one of the go-to conversation topics when Walt Disney crops up. While the likes of Mr Freeze may spend years and years (or maybe just reboots and reboots) searching for the cure for his wife Nora, we may start seeing the benefits of cryonics in our hospitals sooner than you think.
Cryonics are predicted to become a stable part of hospitals, operating under the same principle as Tom Cruise’s character in Vanilla Sky, but on a much shorter timescale. The research is based on the discovery that a person’s cells remain alive for a short time even after they themselves have been pronounced dead. This has led to a search for a way to use cryonics with those on the verge of death (or having just passed away) and trying to find a way to revive them. Rather than widespread access to year-long freezing, the example Lance Becker from the Penn Center for Resuscitative Medicine gives is freezing a wounded man on a battlefield, transporting him to a hospital, and treating him with more dependable equipment than those available in a field medical kit.
I, Robot, Minority Report and Total Recall have all shown us the potential of autonomous cars, allowing relaxation and privacy while out on the road, unless you’re taking the slightly unsettling Johnny Cabs (why does he have eyelids? He doesn’t have legs, but he has working eyelids?). Nothing would be better if you need to get someone to the hospital, letting the car drive itself while you keep them calm.
Though not commercially available just yet, driverless cars are being developed by the likes of Google and Baidu, and have even been made legal on UK roads. With 360 degree cameras, sensors and radars, these cars will be able to effectively predict their surrounding much better than a human, drastically reducing the risk of an accident occurring, as a recent study revealed human error being the cause of 90% of all road traffic accidents.
Straight out of the world of Doctor Who, airborne nanobots (microscopic robots that can fix you up on a molecular level) are the answer to saving war-time civilians in the haunting story The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. While a cloud of nanobots that can fix you in an instant may still be light-years away, nanotech is being developed to take tissue samples and target specific types of cells. Research is currently underway to develop a self-assembling robot made of individual capsules that perform simple tasks separately and then combine to perform more complex ones.
By improving the functionality and level of control of such capsules, in a few years, doctors may be able to treat illnesses in far less invasive ways using nanotech. If things improve enough, they’ll be looking to prevent diseases before they even appear in the human body. Just think, you’ll be part of the Borg Collective in no time! Oh wait…
Everyone loves Baymax. Don’t try to deny it. He’s an adorable inflatable robot who just wants to help people. What’s not to love? A fully-formed Baymax to help you out may still be a long time away, but that isn’t to say robotics can’t help save your life in the near future. Alec Momont, an engineering graduate, has been busy developing a prototype ‘ambulance drone’ that can help those suffering from cardiac arrest.
Tracking an emergency phone call and navigating through GPS signals to get to incidents quickly, the drone houses a camera and speaker, meaning a paramedic unit can see what’s happening on the scene and talk someone through using the on-board defibrillator while an ambulance is on its way. While still in early stages, Momont hopes the drone will save “hundreds of lives in the next five years” and that it improves heart attack sufferers chances of survival “from 8% to 80%”.
These are some of the medical developments that are looking to become part of our regular lives in the next 10-20 years. Beyond that, who knows what we’ll have, and who knows what innovations science fiction will be inspiring even further.