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Help Me Obi

Physicists recently destroyed our "Star Wars"-fueled ideas of what a blaster bolt from a laser gun would actually look like, but some inventors have had a lot more luck with replicating technology from the sci-fi series.

As it turns out, a tiny Princess Leia created through movie special effects in "Star Wars" isn’t our only hope for super-cool 3D holograms. Two Scottish artists demonstrated a similar technology with an art installation titled Help Me Obi. The result was 3D video images that appeared to hang in the air. Viewers could walk around the images and see them from any position.

"It's not actually a 3D hologram, we use the term holographic to help to describe it because there is nothing else like it, it's a device that produces 360-degree video objects. The machine creates 360-degree moving video objects apparently floating in space," said artist Chris Helson. The technology is still young, but we may some day see it used for visualizing 3D models in an entirely new way.

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

Caption:Photo:Helson Jackets
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Boeing patents a force field

Starships equipped with force fields are a classic sci-fi trope, but they have yet to become a part of real life. There may be hope, Obi-Wan, in the form of a patent granted to aircraft and defense company Boeing for a kind of force field designed to protect a target from shockwaves generated by explosions

It won't deflect missiles, but it is designed to create a small plasma field that interferes with shockwaves, an after-effect that can be damaging to people, vehicles and buildings.The design has a less-than-catchy name: "Method and system for shockwave attenuation via electromagnetic arc." If it was a part of the Star Wars universe, it would probably have a name like "EletrcoForcer" or "Blaster Shield."

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Robot arm

Segway inventor Dean Kamen has been plenty busy since his two-wheeled vehicle first hit the scene in 2001. One of his more interesting creations is the Deka Arm System, a replacement arm that uses electrodes to read signals sent by muscles near where it’s attached. It’s an impressively high-tech prosthetic capable of subtle and complex movements.

This should bring to mind Luke Skywalker’s replacement hand that was attached to him after his dad, Darth Vader, removed his original one with a lightsaber. The team working on the DARPA-funded Deka nicknamed the arm "Luke" in reference to the famous "Star Wars" prosthetic, which was just as functional as Skywalker's original hand. Deka received FDA approval earlier this year.

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

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Real-life pew pew

And the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has its hands in another system that's downright Lucasian.

We don't have X-wing fighters just yet, but we may soon have their laser weapons, as DARPA, together with Lockheed Martin, is testing "a new beam control turret... to give 360-degree coverage for high-energy laser weapons operating on military aircraft."

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

Updated:Caption:Photo:Air Force Research Laboratory
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Free-flying helper robots

Imagine you're an astronaut who's just arrived at the International Space Station. You need to assess the supplies on hand, but counting everything demands too much of your limited time.

That's exactly why NASA originally turned to Spheres, autonomous, free-flying robots that take care of mundane tasks. They're based on the flying droid that helped teach Luke Skywalker how to fight with a lightsaber in the original "Star Wars."

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

Updated:Caption:Photo:James Martin/CNET
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Endor on Earth

When it comes to "Star Wars" vehicles that fans most want to have in reality, the speeder bikes are right up there. The zippy, land-skimming crafts take the motorcycle concept and make it sci-fi cool. In 2012, intrepid company Aerofex unveiled a working prototype of a hover vehicle that represents the first steps toward having a speeder bike.

The initial design is noisy and messy, but it works as a proof-of-concept. The company later unveiled some slick-looking concept drawings for a next-generation speeder called the Aero-X. Now we just need some Ewoks and a nice forest to make Endor on Earth.

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

Updated:Caption:Photo:Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
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Real-world deflector shield

Those fancy light shields they use in "Star Wars" to protect themselves against laser attacks aren't necessarily the stuff of science fiction after all. According to three fourth-year physics students at the University of Leicester, not only is the technology scientifically feasible, the science behind the principle is already in use today.

The students designed a concept for fully operational deflector shields, but there's one problem: they'd blind whomever they protect.

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

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Real-life lightsaber?

Researchers from MIT and Harvard last year created a new form of matter and taught us all a lesson about the power of quantum friendship.

"It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers," Harvard physics professor Mikhail Lukin said. "When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies."

Related article: This is what a 'Star Wars' blaster bolt would look like in real life

Updated:Caption:Photo:Wicked Lasers
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