'Star Trek Into Darkness' Head-To-Head: 9 Not-So-Out-Of-This-World Technologies

High-Tech Gadgets, Engage!

Star Trek is well known to be sci-fi techies' fantasies come to life, as the TV series and movies have for decades opened our minds to technological feats well beyond the imagination. Although most of that technology may be light-years away, some of it's already here, or at least in the works. The blockbuster release of "Star Trek Into Darkness" offers up an exciting glimpse into the future of IT. The fantasy tech in the series' latest installment isn't as advanced as in the TV show "Star Trek: The Next Generation," seeing as the timeline in "Into Darkness" pre-dates Captain Picard and the Enterprise's holodeck and replicators that leave our ideas of virtual reality and 3-D printing in the galactic dust. But, "Into Darkness" offers an IT reality that more closely matches modern day than ever before -- that is if warp drive's taken off the table.

Here's a spoiler-free look at some of the technology from "Star Trek Into Darkness" and how it stacks up against modern-day tech. Engage!

Communicators, The Not-So-Smart Phones

How on earth, or in space, do those communicators work? They appear to be fancy flip phones from about 15 years ago, before mobile phones were revolutionized into the minicomputer smartphones we see today. Seeing as their only function in the movie seems to be to communicate internally with other Starfleet members, it could be argued that they're more like sophisticated forms of interoffice walkie-talkies, or push-to-talk flip phones akin to Nextel's mid-90s devices. The ones in "Star Trek Into Darkness" may not sport Nextel's clunky antenna, but they seem to be clearly less sophisticated than today's modern smartphones -- unless, that is, a yet-unknown future technology eliminates the need for a "smart" phone, but we'll get to that.

Advantage: Modern Day

While we're on the topic of telecommunications, what network are they running those communicators on anyway?

Long-Term Or Light-Speed Evolution?

There's no way to tell exactly how the Starfleet communicators are networked together, but they sure aren't using 4G LTE. Despite being on the highly volatile planet of Nibiru, Kirk, Sulu and Spock are all able to communicate with the Enterprise during a volcanic eruption without a hint of static or lag. Admittedly, current cellular networks have come a long way from the "Can you hear me now?" days, and Starfleet presumably isn't dealing with issues of public bandwidth. But, modern day isn't too far off. MIT has something in the works: Distributed Programming Layer Over Mobile Agents, or DIPLOMA, a type of programming that allows mobile phones to process data locally rather than across a bloated cellular network where it's processed in a server. DIPLOMA's only been tested on 10 Android phones, but MIT found those phones had nearly 10X faster response times than today's client-to-server networks. But, that means by the next movie installment, MIT might have the advantage over Star Trek.

Advantage: Star Trek

A Future For 10-Inch Tablets?

Somehow "Into Darkness" had far more sophisticated tablets than those in the far-distant future's "Next Generation," which used a similar but clunkier device: Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs). But, it could be argued that, due to the twisted fate of time and space that resulted in the creation of the multiple realities and spawned the franchise's rebirth, tablets in one reality were more sophisticated than the other. Whatever the case, the tablets in "Into Darkness" looked pretty slick: bluish-clear thin slabs of glass -- with no hardware, circuitry or the likes in sight. But is that really where tablets are headed? There are a number of real-world examples in which a clear device came to market and left just as quickly, such as the colorful iMacs that, although may have helped Apple reinvent itself, ultimately didn't last. More importantly, check out the size of the tablets: 10 inches. Although 7-inch tablets are currently trending, apparently full-size tablets have a future. That said, the final frontier for tablet form factors may be as-yet undiscovered.

Advantage: Star Trek (for hardwareless tech)

Touching, Pinching And Swiping, Oh My!

In "Into Darkness," there sure does appear to be a whole lot of touching, pinching and swiping going on, quite reminiscent of Apple's iOS and its highly "fought" after touch patents, meaning imagined touchscreens of the future still make use of similar gesture controls used today. Starfleet does appear, however, to have better multitasking capabilities, which the iPad has been accused of lacking and for which other tablets, such as Samsung's Galaxy Note II (pictured), have been applauded, as crewmembers are seen "enhancing" multiple windows, manipulating content in varying ways. As it is, today's touch-enabled devices can usually only play within a few windows at a time and certainly couldn't handle the level of multitasking Starfleet was putting its devices through. But, that does mean when we envision future touch-enabled devices, smooth touch-enabled multitasking is key, that is if we ever want to do something like, you know, control space travel using touch-enabled devices and move at light speed without crashing.

Advantage: Star Trek

Bridge To Siri: You're Taking Shotgun This Flight

When giving the Enterprise a command, Starfleet members neither repeat themselves nor push a button to do it. Today's voice-activated technology requires users first engage the voice controls, letting it know a command is about to be given as opposed to an always-on voice recognition system. As smart as Apple's Siri might be, she can't do that. And, Star Trek seems to have a much more nuanced voice recognition system, capable of interpreting any number of linguistic cues and taking the appropriate actions. Google did announce its attempt to make a more "natural," voice-activated means of search, called "Conversational Search," which uses the phrase "Okay Google" to engage the capabilities, like Siri (pictured). And, speaking of sassy Siri, voice-activated future tech never seems to really talk back; Starfleet crewmembers aren't sitting around having full-on conversations with a computer. Perhaps future folks have no need for computer-validated responses beyond notifications.

Advantage: Star Trek

Destination: Wearable Tech

Google's giving Star Trek a run for its money in terms of wearable technology, or at least it's showing what its progeny might look like. "Into Darkness" makes use of highly sophisticated wearable technology, such as when two Starfleet officers venture outside a starship and move through space at high speeds. The two are guided by the wearable technology in their helmets' visor, which functions as a computer screen, similar to Google Glass, popping up vital information about the Starfleet officers' surroundings, using geolocation and other modern-day app-like features to provide information about their location, their velocity and obstacles flying in their way, among others. Perhaps, then, the future isn't in "smarter" smartphones but rather, as Google Glass (pictured) or Apple's rumored iWatch would suggest, in wearable technology, which may nullify the need for smartphones and make Starfleet's primitive-looking communicator seem like a streamlined, purpose-built device rather than an iPhone lacky.

Advantage: Star Trek

Scout's Got Its Phasers Set To Kill The Tricorder

You know those fancy Tricorder devices we see Dr. McCoy, A.K.A. Bones, hovering over patients' heads and bodies? Well, fantasy just became reality. Scanadu, a Singularity University startup based in Nasa's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., announced last week it's raising money and taking orders for its latest med-tech breakthrough: Scout (pictured), a medical device that, if hovered over someone's forehead for 10 seconds, measures a number of the body's vitals -- including body temperature, ECG, heart rate, urine and even stress levels -- and, once synced, sends that info to a smartphone for easy monitoring and tracking. Scout will retail for $199 once it hits the market, but it's currently being re-released through an IndieGoGo campaign, where backers can pay and register to get their own personal Scout, complete with app as well as other bonuses, at a discounted price before the Tricorder-esque device hits stores.

Advantage: Modern Day

Translators: A Giant Leap For Trekkers

Translation plays a big role in "Star Trek Into Darkness," as one wrong move -- or syllable -- could trigger an intergalactic war. On the whole, translation tech has come a long way, and it can be found in a number of modern-day apps, such as the SayHi Translate app, which translates a user's spoken word into text, or Wordictionary, an image-based translator app. However, none of those work as effortlessly as Star Trek's universal translator, which scans brain-wave frequencies to output translations. Now, if those apps could be integrated into something like Google Glass, taking images it processes through its visor or a spoken foreign language it picks up and translating it on the visor for the wearer to read, we'd be slightly closer. But, at least we can translate not one but two Klingon dialects, Klingon and Klingon (Kronos), thanks to Microsoft's Bing Translator. That's one small step for browser translators, one giant leap for Trekies.

Advantage: Star Trek

Internet Of Everything ... In The Galaxy!

The Enterprise sure seems capable of a lot, including knowing how many inhabitants are on Nibiru, whether an enemy ship's crew is dead or alive, when there's an intruder on board and a slew of other things. But, all that involves is a sophisticated networking of sensors, and it's here today, usually referred to as the "Internet of Things." With it, we're already able to do things like monitor home security from work using a tablet, and companies are working hard to put that technology to use, delivering ads directly to our smartphones as we wander past a store for example. But that's not all it can do. According to MIT, things like teleportation, immortality and even telepathy might soon be possible. But, what sets Star Trek's vision of IOT apart from modern day is its ability to make sense of all that data as a connected, complete and cohesive whole. Modern tech still doesn't quite know what to do with all the info it's getting, and big data analytics and business intelligence software will have to find a way if we ever want to get to Star Trek-like levels.

Advantage: Star Trek