With “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” currently in movie theaters nationwide, it’s prime time to take a look at the technology that is made for the movies — but that also has real-world applications.
These hand-held devices function very similarly to binoculars and are designed to provide the user with the ability to see great distances. Sony’s DEV 5 macrobinoculars came out in 2011 and are very comparable to the ones seen in Star Wars. The original binoculars, named DEV3 and DEV5, comprised a CMOS sensor, two lenses and two electronic eyepieces. They allowed the wearer to video record goings-on, as well as take snap stills. Continual autofocus permits the user to follow the subject, and image stabilization reduces the effects of a shaky hand. The DEV5 has GPS to geotag your photos and videos, but just be sure the Dark Side isn’t following you.
The Galactic Empire used armored hover trains running along magnetic levitation tracks to transport prisoners and cargo. Today, China boasts the fastest commercial magnetic levitation train in the world, routinely traveling between the Shanghai and Pudong International Airport at roughly 268 mph. It uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track as in levitation, and another to move the 'floating train' ahead.
In Japan, a maglev train just broke a world record, traveling approximately 370 mph. The trains don’t use metal tracks but instead float nearly four inches above special guideways. Reportedly, the train cruised at 10.8 seconds traveling above 370 mph, during which it covered 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles). Contrast that against the fastest U.S. train: Amtrak's Acela Express has clocked a top speed of 150 miles per hour.
Hoverbikes — 'speeders' in the Star Wars films — are in the works. In fact, the police in Dubai announced this fall that they’ll add quadcopter-style hoverbikes to its police fleet.
The police electric hoverbike can fly a pilot at up to 43 mph, with a programmed maximum height of 16 feet It can fly unmanned for between 20 and 25 minutes, with recharge times around three hours.
In addition, Aerofex, a California-based startup, has developed the Aero-X vehicle. This hovercraft that rides like a motorcycle can fly at 45 mph up to 10 feet off the ground. For those with a need for speed, U.K.-based Malloy Aeronautics' Hoverbike is forecast to reach speeds of more than 170 mph at the same altitude as a helicopter. The bike is marketed as an “extreme sports instrument,” and pricing may well reach six figures. The electric version will hover for some 30 minutes, while the gas-electric hybrid version will operate for an entire hour.