I’m an enthusiastic Star Wars fan, however, as the Medical Futurist I cannot help but see what medical technologies the episodes featured. The digital health innovations we have today are so amazing that they could even improve the futuristic Star Wars universe. I binge-watched all 7 episodes to find the 11 most interesting technologies we already possess, but Star Wars — despite ubiquitous space travel and lightsabers, does not.
1. Instant wound healing?
The most obvious discovery was that laser guns are common weapons in Star Wars but there is no instant wound healing, but we have it today. A sponge-filled syringe that was announced in December, 2015, was designed to close up gaping gunshot wounds in seconds.
2. Plastic surgeons?
Between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker develops a scar over his right eye. When the scar appeared in Revenge of the Sith, there was no explanation as to how it got there. If he had access to a plastic surgeon, such skin problems could be resolved easily.
Still in episode 3, when Anakin is burnt and loses his legs, robot surgeons work on him while he is in great pain. I kept on wondering why. They had no painkillers and anesthesia? No cold liquid therapy for the burnt tissue? Moreover, they put the mask on him while the skin was still not intact and susceptible to infections.
4. Food scanners?
In the opening scene of Episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi drink what the droid brings to them without checking exactly what the drink contained. Food scanners such as Tellspec orScio will become available in 2016. These tools can tell us what we have on our plates or in our glasses.
If midi-chlorians, the microorganisms that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force, are in the blood and can be measured with handheld tools (as seen in Episode 1), why are there no clear blood biomarkers with which people could be screened to become Jedi apprentices easily?
6. Diagnostic devices?
Anakin finds his mother by using a really fast vehicle, but when he gets there and his mother is dying, there’s no way to rush for medical help, or to use a hand-held diagnostic device to discover how to treat her?
In episode 4, Han Solo says it takes a few minutes to get the coordinates from the navicomputer for faster space travel. While there are robots with artificial intelligence and free will such as R2D2, and a robotic midwife in episode 3; there are no smart artificial intelligence systems onboard starships? IBM Watson could easily navigate the Millennium Falcon thousands of times faster.
8. Smart clothes?
In the The Empire Strikes Back, Luke almost freezes to death on the icy planet Hoth. They use state-of-the-art spaceships but there are no smart clothes to keep them warm and safe?
9. Skin tissue on robot prosthetics?
The fact that Luke’s arm didn’t bleed when Darth Vader cut it off, no matter how the lightsaber could cauterize his skin and tissues, is one thing, but Luke’s robotic arm in episode 6 looks much more lifelike than Anakin’s metal one in episode 2. I guess a prosthetics startup could have disrupted the galaxy’s industry in the meantime. A few more years and Organovo could print out skin tissue with their 3D bioprinters in real.
10. Cloning issues?
Stormtroopers featured in Episode 2 were cloned from bounty hunter Jango Fett and look alike. But this doesn’t mean that they should have the exact same phenotype, an individual’s observable traits, in their adulthood. Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger — meaning even though two people might have the same genetic background, but the chance of being exactly the same physically is very small. Look at identical twins who grew up in different environments.
11. Symptoms after waking up from carbonite hybernation?
Finally, when Han Solo wakes up from the carbonite state, he should be feeling way worse than he does on screen. Symptoms would include serious vomiting, dehydration, headache and even more. He might have been lucky to “only” temporarily lose his vision.
There are also some good ideas though. In the underwater scenes of episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi wear a device on their mouths that lets them breath in water. When Padmé gives birth to Leia and Luke in episode 3, the movie features a weirdly shaped, quite futuristic birth bed and a robotic midwife armed with artificial intelligence is overseeing the whole process.
If you watch the episodes again by and keep your eyes open, you might catch even more ways our world could help the one of Rey, Luke and Han Solo. Until then, I keep on being a fan and cannot wait to think about what futuristic medical solutions the new episodes will feature.
Subscribe to The Medical Futurist newsletter to receive more analyses about the future of medicine and healthcare.