Science fiction is where the future happens first, and that puts futurist Syd Mead at least two steps ahead of the rest of us.
The 78-year-old conceptual artist may be best known for designing the flying-cop-car-patrolled Los Angeles streetscapes in "Blade Runner," but he also dreamed up the original light cycles in "Tron," the Marine-transport starship in "Aliens" and visions of a class-stratified, off-Earth world for Neill Blomkamp’s highly anticipated March 2013 feature "Elysium." Here, Mead makes predictions for what we might one day see in film, in real life, or both.
Lightweight exoskeletons - Pointing to new electroactive polymers that contract powerfully and predictably when exposed to a charge, Mead foresees an era of lightweight human exoskeletons. Such strap-on limb supports could strengthen soldiers and help the elderly and the paralyzed. "These new materials are better than hydraulics or electric motors," he explains, "because they have a directional axis to pull and push, much like muscles do. So they’re very efficient, and more like a sheath than a bulky cylinder. That’s going to change the world."
Also Predicted: Hands-free highways, Printable replacement organs, Swappable car bodies, and Covert bank warfare.