Tech Society: Sci-fi technologies you’ll soon have on your cell phone

Universal translator, medical scanner and holographic displays are some of the technologies to look forward to.

March 17, 2012

Universal translator

A lot of science fiction movies feature different species from across the galaxy easily overcoming the language barrier (that is, they all speak perfectly understandable English). The shows that bother to plug this plot hole usually credit a universal translator device.

A company from Massachusetts has developed software that will let your phone translate foreign text into audible speech. They have a prototype that can read text from seven different languages and translate it into English, and they estimate a commercial version will be available within the next few years.

From there, speech to speech translation is the next logical step and numerous designs are already in the works. The last real hurdle in the way of them reaching the market is that cell phones just aren’t powerful enough to handle them yet.

But they will be, and sooner rather than later. So be prepared to turn your Nokia into your own personal Babel Fish sometime in the near future, opening up a world of travel, multicultural togetherness and annoying tourists that you could once pretend to not understand!

Medical scanner

Imagine feeling your left arm go all tingly and your chest starts cramping up, but rather than having to drive all the way to the hospital, you can just whip out your cell phone and do a quick self diagnosis.

There are already dozens of medical applications available that can help monitor your blood pressure, give basic eye exams and analyse symptoms to determine what you could be suffering from.

And then there are applications that can turn your cell phone into a fairly sophisticated medical scanner. Just plug a portable unit into your phone and its data will be sent to a remote computer that will return images of whatever tumor you have on your screen. It’s designed for doctors in low income and rural areas, but as the technology becomes cheaper it may not be long before it becomes accessible publicly so you can give yourself an ultrasound!

Holographic displays

Let’s be honest: Despite all the advances in phone technology and cool applications currently available, we’re all still waiting for the day when our Blackberry Storms can play holographic 3D messages for us.

Well, cell phone manufactures apparently feel the same way and seem to be taking the idea seriously, because prototypes continue to be developed that emphasize the 3D display. The real problem is finding an application for it that would make money.

Companies like Samsung and Infosys have already filed patents on the related technology, so they’re working on it. India-based Infosys says their device would display the images using “...a projector with a laser source and micro holographic optical elements lenses.” Though they also claimed its version would be available by 2010, so they better get busy.

Meanwhile Samsung’s patent would work sort of like a tiny version of the rear-projection TV’s that were popular before plasma came along. In their words, “...source images emitted by the optical unit are three-dimensionally displayed on a plane spaced from the hologram screen by a predetermined distance.” Source:

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2012.


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