Emily Baines
January 12, 2016 11:56 am

My dad, a huge Trekkie, used to love to point out to me all the devices on Star Trek that ended up becoming real. Whenever Lieutenant Commander Geordi Laforge whipped out his tablet computer (in the series it was referred to as a Personal Access Data Device, or PADD) my dad would nudge me and go “See! Star Trek thought of it first!” in a tone that made it clear what he thought of those copycats Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. When I showed my dad the jaw-dropping capabilities of TalirApps’ Voice Translator he sniffed, unimpressed. Star Trek had universal translators, too.

Needless to say, I am sure Dad is just as unimpressed by the emergence of hoverboards and self-parking cars. But I wonder what he’d say about the practically transparent, gesture-powered TV Panasonic unveiled last week at CES 2016.

In the video, the widescreen television is housed in a bookcase and allows users to make the screen temporarily translucent, letting them see the items on the shelf behind it. The TV also features a gesture-controlled music app that lets you spin a carousel of your digital music over half of the display while the other half continues to give you a see-through view behind the display. The invisible television can support display of videos or still images in HD quality. Users can also choose what sections of the screen become transparent. For example, half of the screen can be used to play music and another half can be used as just as a transparent glass.

As of now, Panasonic’s TV is still in its experimental phase and not yet available for purchase. But I’m confident that it will be, sooner or later. After reading up on all the announcements at CES 2016 and elsewhere, I’m confident 2016 will host one heck of a tech revolution. Here are five other gadgets blowing my mind, in no particular order:

1. Aging Stimulator

As Atticus Finch taught us, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The Genworth R70i Exoskeleton aging stimulator does just that, giving us the experience of an elderly person.

To do this, the suit leverages a variety of technologies. The motorized frame restricts your movements to simulate arthritis and muscle loss, while a special augmented reality headset induces things like hearing loss, tinnitus, and even the tunnel vision that comes with glaucoma.

Individually, these technological tricks are disorienting, but when you experience all of them at once, it’s downright debilitating — and that’s the whole point. The R70i can’t make you stronger or faster, but it can provide the wearer with empathy and understanding for senior citizens. Can you think of any other technology that makes users more empathetic? Neither can I.

2. FITGuard Head Injury Awareness Mouth Guard

Athletes’ safety (or lack thereof) has been in the news lately. One tech company decided to do something about the horrific amount of deaths caused by untreated sports injuries. Force Impact Technologies recently announced FITGuard, an innovative mouthpiece designed to help athletes avoid risking head injuries.

  The mouthpiece features a series of LED lights and high-tech sensors geared towards detecting absorbed force. If the user endures a forceful impact, the mouthpiece’s LED lights glow in three different colors. A flashing green display represents a fairly low impact sustained, flashing blue means a bit more force was felt, while red indicates the highest probability of injury. But that’s not at all the FITGuard does: the results of the impacts are sent to a companion smartphone application. Users have the ability to keep track of any accrued incidents and document self-reported symptoms all within an easy-to-use interface. The app even displays a relative risk percentage based on the impact of the incident against user age, weight, and gender selections. Any data collected quickly uploads to the cloud, allowing Force Impact Technology to analyze its accuracy to continue to improve the device.  Guys, this technology is life-changing– and perhaps life-saving. Man, I love the future.       3. Jet Packs Jet Packs aren’t just for the Rocketeer: the company Jet Pack International (ignore their hokey website, the technology is sound) is making strong strides in jetpack technology. Their H202 and H202-Z jetpacks are hydrogen peroxide-fueled jetpacks that allow users to fly at up to 77 miles per hour at a maximum height of 250 feet.  

  So far, the higher-capacity H202-Z is only capable of a maximum flight length of 33 seconds and a maximum travel distance of 3,300 feet. But it seems it will be only a matter of time until they’ve perfected their technology (!!!!!!!!)     4. The Aerofex Aero-X For those of us who want to be the next Rey, there’s the Aero-X, a vehicle that makes low-altitude flight not only realistic, but, according to Aerofex’s website, affordable. Flying up to 10 feet off the ground at 45 miles per hour, the Aero-X is unlike any vehicle you’ve seen. Claims Aerofex, “It’s a hovercraft that rides like a motorcycle – an off road vehicle that gets you off the ground.” Cooooooool.     

Powered by a water-cooled 240 horsepower engine and two large rotors, the Aero-X can hover at an altitude of 12 feet and at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour power. It can also carry up to 310 pounds. Think of the potential! Think of the fun!

5. Titan Arm

I always knew it was a matter of time before the exoskeleton technology showcased in the Aliens franchise became available. Titan Arm nixes the bulky suit and saves the strength. It features a strength-enhancing upper-body exoskeleton that will help you lift an extra 40 pounds. That might not sound like a lot (Ripley picked up a whole alien queen in her exoskeleton!) but Titan Arm has a far more humble goal in mind: rehabilitation.

The Titan Arm is built to help rehabilitate people who’ve suffered serious arm injuries as well as provide extra strength and protection for anyone who lifts heavy objects for a living. Like the aforementioned FITGuard mouthguard and the R70i exoskeleton, today’s technology has a purpose: helping humanity. Considering the amount of doomsday films warning that our technological innovations will bring about the Apocalypse (Terminator, anyone?), I, for one, am heartened by these more empathetic inventions. See, naysayers? Human ingenuity really can be used for good!

(Image via Buena Vista Pictures/Touchstone Pictures; Genworth; Jet Pack International; Titan Arm)

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