As we have discussed on this blog before companies like Google, Magic Leap & Oculus are investing millions of dollars and tons of resources to create amazing augmented reality experiences. In Black Panther, they illustrated the power of this emerging technology using a telecommunications example - the caller pops up in a 3D, 360 degree display that makes the communication more rich and interactive. It's most similar to a mashup between FaceTime & Virtual Reality goggles without wearable hardware beyond the 'Apple Watch' on your wrist. This is exciting technology and I'm sure that we will see this capability become mainstream within the next 1-3 years.
From the medical beds to the trains (long and short distance) and even hoverbikes, these transportation devices within the movie all leveraged a technology based upon the principles of magnetic levitation. Magnetic levitation is a technology that uses magnetic forces to lift an object to counteract other forces such as gravity to enable the object to float on air. As a result of the reduced friction between typical train wheels and track, magnetic levitation trains can travel at higher rates of speed - ~310mph (more than double the speed of current trains). At these speeds, magnetic levitation trains become a compelling alternative to air travel. Many countries around the globe are currently investing in developing these technologies and we would expect magnetic levitation trains to be utilized within the next 3-5 years.
Energy Absorbing Body Armor
One of the coolest technologies highlighted in the movie is the energy absorbing body armor for the Black Panther suit that leverages vibranium in a novel way. While most superhero suits offer protection for the user, this suit harness the kinetic energy and turns it into potential energy that can be re-released to create a unique counterpunch. In essence it's like a bulletproof vest that can store all the bullets energy and re-release that force in a controlled way. Given the technical challenges of energy storage and management, this technology will not be commercially viable for 10-20 years.
Self Healing Medical Device
In a superhero movie, you would expect there to be a lot of fight scenes and Black Panther did not disappoint. However, with fighting there are ample opportunities for injury. As a result, the movie was able to feature a self-healing medical device that was placed within the wound to quickly seal it and rapidly stabilize the patient. In one of the most memorable scenes, it enabled someone to be healed from a gunshot wound in only one day. While there have certainly been tons of medical advances, this type of technology with rapid recovery from major trauma is at least 20-30 years away.
One of our favorite sayings at Digital Adventures is that you can build anything that your mind can imagine. Whether it's an interesting model using CAD software and a 3D printer or a reduced friction magnetic levitation train; these inventions and more are not only possible but probable when we dream big. This is why we love when futurists and visionaries force not only adults but the next generation to think big. Perhaps one of the students reading this will say the timeline for a technology based self-healing medical device is too far out and they will dedicate their time, talent, and resources to accelerating the release.