<p></p> <p>After a number of cancellations and direct to DVD movies, the animated science fiction comedy "Futurama" returns tonight with new episodes. Although the show’s 31st century setting allows the writers to fill episodes with improbably advanced technology, many of the shows gadgets have modern-day analogs.</p> <p>So, to celebrate the return of new episodes of "Futurama," we’re reviewing some of the technology from the show that you won’t have to wait a thousand years to get your hands on.</p> <p></p>


<p></p> <p></p> <p>First appearance: Season 1, Episode 8, “A Big Piece of Garbage”</p> <p><strong>In Futurama: </strong>Professor Farnsworth’s primary tool for searching the cosmos, this giant mechanical nose sniffs out astronomical bodies from light years away.</p> <p><strong>In real life:</strong><a alt="((CONLINK|492|%20An%20electronic%20nose))" href=""> An electronic nose</a> already traveled to space, monitoring air quality both on the International Space Station (ISS) and the space shuttle Discovery, according to NASA. Called the ENose, the device spent exactly 7 months, 6 days, 15 hours aboard the ISS, and accompanied Senator John Glenn into orbit in 1998.</p> <p>The ENose worked by capturing volatile molecules like alcohol or Freon on carbon-coated rods about half the size of a quarter, according to NASA. As the molecules bond to the rods, they changed the electrical resistance in a predictable way that allowed scientists on the ground to determine what chemicals filled the astronauts’ air, according to NASA. Unfortunately, unlike the Futurama version, the real ENose cannot detect a smell from across the galaxy.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Death Clock</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p><strong>First appearance: </strong>Season 1, Episode 8, “A Big Piece of Garbage”</p> <p><strong>In Futurama: </strong>Designed by Professor Farnsworth as his entry into an annual invention competition, the Death Clock reads information in a user’s finger to predict the exact time of their death.</p> <p><strong>In real life: </strong>While actuaries have calculated the chance of death for people since the inception of life insurance, an iPhone app called “Test of Life” brings that estimate into the 21st century. Test of Life uses World Health Organization data about the life expectancy in different countries, and then adjusts that estimate based on the smoking, drinking and eating habits of the user, said Mariella Villaneuva, a content specialist at Movisol, the company that created the app.</p> <p>Obviously, a number of factors such as unexpected violence or sickness could counter a “Test of Life” prediction. But unlike Death Clock on "Futurama," Movisol intended the program to make users <a href="7-high-tech-helpers-to-get-fit-0730/6">think about their living habits</a>, not give an exact date for death.</p> <p>However, that doesn’t mean “Test of Life” isn’t accurate.</p> <p>“It's extremely accurate. As a matter of fact, I died right when the app told me I would!” Villaneuva said.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Net Suit</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p><strong>First appearance: </strong>Season 2, episode 9, “A Bicyclops Built for Two”</p> <p><strong>In Futurama: </strong>This combination of gloves and helmet allows the Planet Express crew to experience the Internet as an immersive environment, like a cross between virtual reality and “Second Life.”</p> <p><strong>In real life:</strong> While no company has yet assembled the components, all the technology needed to create a Net Suit already exists, said Ted Hall, a research computer specialist at the University of Michigan 3-D Lab.</p> <p>“It doesn't require any new physics or technology. The parts are all there, it's a matter of integration,” Hall said.</p> <p>There are plenty of <a alt="((CONLINK|576|virtual%20reality%20headsets))" href="">virtual reality headsets</a> already on the market, but they are bulky, expensive and have poor peripheral vision support, Hall said. Gloves like the CyberGlove provide manual interface with computers, although the device remains too expensive for home use, Hall said.</p> <p>The two impediments to fully creating the "Futurama" Net Suit are bandwidth and human legs. Internet connections aren’t yet fast enough to carry the large amount of 3-D data needed to realistically simulate a 3-D world, and simulating running in a stationary room requires a wired treadmill, Hall said.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Career Chip</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p><strong>First appearance: </strong>Season 1, episode 1 “Space Pilot 3000”</p> <p><strong>In Futurama:</strong> These chips tell people what job they should perform, and inform the authorities whether or not someone is in the right profession. Professor Farnsworth managed to save the Planet Express Crew’s job chips from the stomach of the space wasp that killed the previous crew.</p> <p><strong>In real life:</strong> Job chips proper still don’t exist, and probably won’t for some time, but <a alt="((CONLINK|529|implantable%20computer%20chips))" href="">implantable computer chips</a> have begun making some inroads, said Scott Silverman, chairman and CEO of the Positive ID Corporation.</p> <p>Positive ID Corp. used to make a chip with an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitter for high risk medical patients. The chip allowed emergency room doctors to retrieve the full medical records of an unconscious patient with nothing more than a simple RFID reader. Currently, Positive ID Corp. is working on another implantable chip that will provide blood sugar levels for diabetics.</p> <p>However, Silverman cautions that implantable chips will remain medical devices exclusively for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>“Sure, someday, if you wanted to have something in your body to open your car door, you could have that. But the willingness of the community to accept that is not there, won't be there for years, and may never be there,” Silverman said.</p> <p>So it could be a couple of years before you have to confront any space wasps on behalf of your employees.</p> <p></p>

<strong>The Holophonor</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p><strong>First appearance:</strong> Season 3, episode 4 “Parasites Lost”</p> <p><strong>In Futurama: </strong>An instrument that produces animated images and music simultaneously, Fry plays the holophonor to impress the starship pilot Lela. Incredibly hard to play, Fry can only use the instrument effectively when augmented by super-intelligent parasites or robotic hands.</p> <p><strong>In real life: </strong>A number of artistic projects combine music and real-time animation to produce an effect similar to the holophonor. The Messa di Voce project, created by interactive artists Golan Levin and Zach Lieberman, involved graphical software reacting to the singing of two abstract vocalists. As they made noises, a computer program converted the sounds into animations, Levin and Lieberman wrote in a 2004 issue of the journal for the Proceedings of The 3rd International Symposium on Non-Photorealistic Animation and Rendering.</p> <p>Similarly, a device called “Sonic Wire Sculptor” works the opposite way, with drawings generating sounds. Amit Pitaru, a digital artist, created the Sonic Wire Sculptor to “explore basic connections between sound and visuals,” according to Pitaru’s website, making it more of an <a alt="((CONLINK|493|art%20installation%20than%20a%20consumer%20device))" href="">art installation than a consumer device</a> .</p> <p>However, for those that want to try their hand at drawing a song, Sonic Wire Sculptor is now available as an iPhone app. Whether one can create a song and animation compelling enough to win over a crush depends entirely on your access to robotic replacement hands or brain-boosting parasites.</p>

‘Futurama’ Tech That's Real Now