After almost a decade, James Cameron’s Avatar has become a must-see film for any movie lover. Being the highest-grossing movie of all time and winner of three Oscars, the success of Avatar allowed it to have four more sequels coming over the next few years. Beyond its revolutionary technical aspects, the film generated a popular interest for the amazing technological and natural elements that are described in the history of two worlds: the Earth and Pandora.
The story of the film takes place in the year 2154. The Earth is overcrowded with indifferent and greedy people, and we begin to look for solutions to our problems in other places in the universe. During the course of the movie, we witness the immense technological advances that humans have achieved—machines and devices that we have only seen in sci-fi works for a long time.
However, the incredible part is that even when the plot takes place within a century and a half, we already have many of those advances. Some time ago, we showed you the real equivalent of Pandora’s life-forms on our own planet. So now it is time to see that much of the futuristic technology of the film is already within our reach. In fact, the future of Avatar may be much closer to our present than we could imagine.
10. Exopack (Oxygen-Filtering Device)
Scientific details in the plot of Avatar state that Pandora’s atmospherecontains large amounts of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. For this reason, if a human breathes naturally in that atmosphere, he will die intoxicated in a few minutes.
So humans in Pandora need to use a device called “exopack.” This equipment consists of a breathing mask connected to a mechanism that filters oxygen from the air while eliminating toxic gases. Thus, the person using the exopack can breathe fresh air without the need to carry oxygen tanks.
The truth is that this technology already exists, and we have devices capable of constantly filtering the air from other substances to breathe it. The creator of this technology is the Israeli company Like-A-Fish Technologies, founded in 2001.
Traditional diving suits have oxygen tanks that need to be recharged after some time. So Like-A-Fish Technologies created an underwater breathing system without tanks, which directly extracts the air dispersed in the seawater. Such air represents 2 percent of the total volume of the water body, so the device works continuously for as long as its batteries last.
The creators of the project have already thought about expanding the uses of this promising technology—for example, to provide breathable air in hermetic environments. With a little more development, we could make this device become a full-fledged exopack.
9. Giant Robotic Vehicles
To perform mining operations on Pandora, Avatar describes that humans use unmanned vehicles with the height of a small building and remotely controlled by an operator. From excavators to dump trucks, these vehicles are very similar to the huge mining trucks currently used in large mines.
The difference is that the most advanced mining vehicles of our time still do not reach the full level of automation of the machines in the movie. They even have cabins for drivers if an eventuality arises. Well, it was like that until recently, but we have finally built vehicles—both gigantic and unmanned—that are similar to those in James Cameron’s movie.
Since 2008, Japanese company Komatsu has been commercializing a system of autonomous mining trucks which have already carried millions of tons of material in places like Australia and Chile. However, in 2016, the company presented a prototype of haul truck both autonomous and cabless, just like the mining vehicles in Avatar. The truck is fully electric, and an operator can drive it using wireless controls.
But the resemblance to the machines of the movie does not end there. Komatsu’s remotely controlled truck also has a monstrous size, with its 15 meters (49 ft) in length and load capacity of 230 tons. Although the launch date of this truck has not been fixed, Komatsu says it plans to commercialize it “in the near future.” Then we can take it to a distant moon to load it with rocks.
8. Transparent Displays
From televisions to ads, including monitors and tablets, almost all communication devices displayed in Avatar have fully transparent screens. The idea of having transparent TVs or cell phones has been the dream of many people for decades. It is even believed to be the previous step to more advanced technologies such as midair holograms.
For a long time, science struggled to create such devices, capable of projecting clear images when necessary but being crystalline like glass at the same time. And after many attempts, it finally seems that it has been achieved.
Traditional displays such as LEDs and LCDs generate images using something called backlight, which in essence is a bright, white screen on the back of the device. The light it emits then passes through small crystals on the front of the display that filter the light according to the color needed to form the image.
Therefore, common digital screens are dark and opaque. They need the backlight screen to emit the image you see. However, we then created the so-called organic LEDs (OLEDs). An OLED screen is made up of millions of small diodes, each of which emits its own light. So, in this case, the backlight is no longer necessary and an OLED screen no longer needs to be opaque.
The technology of transparent OLEDs has been around for several years with sizes ranging from a window to a cell phone screen. In recent times, the most recognized companies in the sector began to publicly present their own transparent displays.
Nevertheless, something even more revolutionary is the technology of transparent touch screens. In 2016, a company called TechRobotix presented a transparent 140-centimeter (55 in) touch screen and the result is as futuristic as what Avatar could show you.