What Science-Fiction Gadget Would Be Most Valuable in Real Life?

Lightsabers, TARDIS, teleportation, and more

Graham Roumieu

Nicole Perlman, screenwriter, Guardians of the Galaxy

As someone who’s both accident-prone and constantly putting her foot in her mouth, my first thought is the Omega 13 from Galaxy Quest. A 13-second rewind into the past would prevent numerous stubbed toes and bruised egos. Then again, the Inception dream machine invisibly influences people’s ideas and emotions, which might be the ultimate superpower.

Geoffrey A. Landis, nasa scientist

The teleporting tardis from Doctor Who—go anywhere in space and time in an instant. No more commutes, no more being packed like sardines in an airplane, no more waiting. Wherever you want to go, zap! You’re there!

Robin Ince, comedian

For day-to-day life, the Voigt-Kampff empathy tester from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? There are days when the combination of abysmal behavior and social-media cruelty makes me fear the end of kindness. If I had a portable version of this machine, I could weed out the humanoid robots among us—and perhaps find out that I’m one, too.

Mark Cuban, investor, Shark Tank

Dr. McCoy’s scanning device from Star Trek, which immediately diagnoses any illness. The market opportunity is obvious: Who wouldn’t buy one?

Graham Roumieu

Hiroshi Ishiguro, director, Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, Osaka University

Everybody wants a time machine, like the one imagined by H. G. Wells. Building one of those might be impossible—but as we rely more on robots to do the work of our bodies, we are, in another way, freeing ourselves from the constraints of time.

Diana Gabaldon, author, Outlander series

Teleportation, hands down. Aside from saving billions of hours of daily commuting, and the trillions of dollars spent on fuel and mechanical-transport devices, consider all the accidental deaths, injuries, and cargo spills that could be avoided. To say nothing of the advantages of not being trapped in a subway car inhabited by an aggressively hostile person playing the accordion.

Ben Rubin, CEO and founder, Meerkat

The ansible, first imagined by Ursula K. Le Guin, a device that provides users with the ability to rapidly send and receive messages throughout our vast galaxy. It would be a groundbreaking step toward determining whether anyone else is out there. If so, are they friends or foes?

Ann Leckie, science-fiction writer

How fabulous would it be to have the dermal regenerator from Star Trek in my purse, to instantly heal cuts or scrapes or burns? It would beat the dusty old Band-Aids coming out of their wrappers that I’ve got in there now all to heck.

Reader Responses

Tony Maddox, Abington, Pa.

The Babel fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: instant translation. Or the guide itself, though smartphones have filled that void.

Graham Roumieu

Brien Beidler, Charleston, S.C.

A lightsaber: All-in-one kitchen knife meets gunless home defense.

Doug Garr, New York, N.Y.

Easily, the transporter from Star Trek. Not only could you instantly beam yourself anywhere, but you would avoid TSA lines—and you wouldn’t need to take your shoes off.

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