Gadgets inspired by Doctor Who

The cult British science fiction television series Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary in November 2013: the first episode was shown on the BBC channel on November 23, 1963. As in any science fiction work, a mass of various devices flashed through it, some of which scientists and simply enthusiastic fans have already tried to reproduce.

The 1960s were the heyday of science fiction, when writers and screenwriters were not afraid to come up with the most incredible devices. But the most interesting thing is that some of their fantastic assumptions were not so fantastic: so, the communicatorfrom another cult (but already American) TV series “Star Trek” served as a source of inspiration for the inventor Martin Cooper, who is now known as the person who made the world's first cell phone call.

So, perhaps, the gadgets from Doctor Who are not as fantastic as they might seem? On the eve of the anniversary of the television series, let's find out which gadgets and technologies from Doctor Who have already been created or at least imitated in real life.

Sonic screwdriver

A sonic screwdriver is a universal tool without which the Doctor is as if without hands. Acting on various mechanisms by means of sound waves, it is able to open mechanical and electronic locks, act as a medical scanner, deactivate and modify electronic devices and even laser weapons, destabilize programmable matter ... In general, the list of functions of a sound screwdriver is constantly extended - such a magic wand in a science fiction context. Or the Strugatsky umklaydet in the British manner - as you please.

So far, modern scientists have not been able to create the same multi-functional, but at the same time compact device, however, enterprising businessmen from The Wand Company have createdSonic Screwdriver’s universal remote control , which looks exactly like the Doctor’s screwdriver (you can even choose between Tenth and Eleventh screwdrivers), but its capabilities are much more modest. This programmable IR remote control can be used to control TVs, DVDs and Blu-ray players, iPod docking stations and other infrared devices.

The remote control recognizes 13 gestures that, thanks to three memory banks, can be used to program 39 remote control commands. For example, a circular motion with a screwdriver clockwise / counterclockwise can be used to change the sound volume or scroll. So that no one but the owner can use a screwdriver, a lock function is provided using a three-character PIN code. This miracle of technology is powered by a battery charged with a micro USB cable. Tru fans will enjoy the backlight and sound, which make the remote control even more like a real screwdriver.

However, the remote control resembles a sound screwdriver only in form, but not in content. And scientists from the University of Dundee (Scotland) have created a device that uses ultrasonic waves to lift and rotate a rubber disk floating in a cylinder with water. This is the first ultrasonic device capable of lifting and rotating objects, all of its predecessors could only push them forward. Of course, manipulating a rubber disc is just the beginning. The development is planned to be used for use in ultrasound surgery (by the way, the Doctor also sometimes used his screwdriver for medical purposes).


The same recognizable character in the series as the sonic screwdriver is the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension (s) in Space). It looks like a British police booth from the 1960s, however, in fact, the TARDIS is also a spaceship, a time machine and a living creature in addition. Oh yes, it’s even bigger inside than outside: in a modest police booth several control rooms, living rooms and even a swimming pool are placed.

The explanation for this phenomenon is that the exterior and interior of the TARDIS exist in different dimensions. Unfortunately, we are limited by a boring and banal three-dimensional space, so the TARDIS and all the tesseracts there, for which superheroes in Marvel films fight, remain for us nothing more than an abstraction. However, a former Tech Crunch employeeGreg Kumparak managed to build the TARDIS model, which really seems bigger inside than outside. To do this, he used augmented reality technology.

By augmented reality is meant the addition of reality with virtual elements. Kumparak created two TARDIS models - real and three-dimensional virtual - and using augmented reality combined them into a single whole.

If you open the door of the model, you can see only a strange black and white pattern - augmented reality label. However, it is worth pointing at the model the camera of a smartphone with a special application, as the TARDIS interior appears on the display instead of the pattern, and it seems that it is really bigger inside than outside. When the model is rotated, the viewing angle of the interior will accordingly change.

To create an Android application, Kumparak used the free package for creating 3D-graphics Blender (which he literally knew about by typing), the Unity 3D engine and Vuforia AR SDK - a set of development tools for creating augmented reality applications. The practical usefulness of such a TARDIS is dubious (we still did not comprehend the secrets of the fourth dimension), but it warms the fan’s soul and perfectly illustrates the possibilities of augmented reality.

TARDIS and a sonic screwdriver are undoubtedly the most striking examples of technologies from Doctor Who, and even if their incarnations are far from prototypes, the most important thing is that they inspire, make you think, search and try . If you dig deeper, you can recall that scientists are working on the problem of tissue regeneration (and the Doctor is almost immortal due to the ability to regenerate), creating cyber prostheses (one of the doctors’s enemies was cybermen) and cloning (Doctors in the series were cloned at least twice, in different ways).

Doctor Who TV series
The Wand Company
Dr Who's sonic screwdriver 'invented' at Dundee University
Mini TARDIS really is bigger on the inside, thanks to augmented reality

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