Last month Beverly reviewed The Fall by S.T. Campitelli, Set in 2052 Post Apocalyptic Australia, the novel secured a 4* review from this blog and can be found here. Following this great review, when S.T. Campitelli approached me about a guest post I jumped at the chance to get to know more about the world he had created. So sit back and enjoy a delve into the tech of The Fall and how it may not be all that far fetched after all…….
The Tech of The Fall
By S.T. Campitelli
‘The smartfybre material, boys,’ – John raised an eyebrow at Matt, ‘boys’ was a liberty – ‘is a lightweight but damn resilient carbon-nanotube mesh of graphene with a reinforcing cross-matrix of goethite thread. You can see it as the grey running through the black. The suit is ten times tougher than Kevlar,’ – rapping her knuckles against her chest – ‘but super flexible with fibre-reinforced hydrogel at the joints. Go on, do a couple of squats.’
Set in close-future 2052, this snapshot from The Fall takes place on the training ground as two of the characters get taken through the paces of the BACC – Bio Armour Combat Chassis – suits, fictional body-armour worn by the military in the book. But is it all fictional? Yes and no. The BACC suits themselves are, but the tech behind them certainly isn’t. The Fall attempts to make use of tech that is possible, and while the intent was that it was certainly futuristic, it also needed to be anchored in reality because that’s where sci-fi or future-facing authors get the buy in. The best stories incorporating tech present it as a seamless part of the story, in the background, not dominant or too prominent. I hoped I’ve achieved that in this book, but it’s the grounded reality of the technology of The Fall I’m writing about today. A caveat before we start: any of the tech bloopers are totally mine!
Let’s look at some of the elements of the excerpt. We’ve known about graphene since Andrew Geim first discovered it in 2002 at the University of Manchester. And although the ultra-thin carbon sheet is thought to be the strongest material on Earth, a challenge has always been to turn it into a material useful for industry. In 2017, a team of researchers at MIT designed a new material with graphene, modelling it into a sponge-like configuration called a ‘gyroid’, an incredibly light yet amazingly strong sponge-like shape taken from nature. The graphene as gyroid is about ten times stronger than steel, and just as importantly, it’s more workable. It is still prohibitively expensive to produce graphene products, but by 2052, I’m betting we’ll be well down that track.
The hydrogel mentioned as being at the joints of the BACC suit is also a real material, right now. A mesh developed by scientists in Japan, it is thought to be five times as strong as carbon steel. The uber-strong, yet flexible and stretchable, fabric brings together hydrogels, like those found in jelly (yes, the kid’s treat – jello if you’re in the US), with glass fibres, resulting in a very resilient yet elastic material that could have a range of future applications. It’s probably no surprise that the suits themselves are a long-investigated branch of military R&D, but how far they are going at the cutting edge in protection and other applications, including medical, is quite sharp indeed.
And it’s not just the protective suits. The people populating the walled compounds, including the military, are mostly equipped with the fictional ‘360’ – a comms and apps system based on microchip tech implants at the back of the neck. Wearable tech? Uh-huh, embedded implants are here now, so I envisaged that by 2052, we would no longer be using hand-held devices, but have them in an array around us. I pictured them as hovering, movable apps around the head, hence the 360, activated with a swipe through the virtual image of the app. Picture the view that Ironman gets from within his suit and you get the idea, without the need for the helmet. Sound fanciful? The microchip debate is already taking place with, at the very least, one Swedish company already into it for employees with subcutaneous chipping.
Surely, though, we can’t ‘touch’ the projections and activate them? Haptic technology would suggest we can. Haptic tech is behind what makes your smartphone generate physical feedback when you touch buttons, for instance. However, through ultrasound technology, the much greater possibility of experiencing a tangible result when handling virtual objects is possible now. But how can a small projection of a virtual app even occur? It already is. Ostendo Technologies in California have developed an imager chip smaller than a piece of chewing gum which, when paired with a miniature projector, is capable of generating crystal clear 2D and 3D imaging from a phone or flat display device bringing images to life.
So, what else does The Fall imagine 2052 life to be like, apart from the impending Apocalypse and super-aggressive infected beings?? The compound has paintable touchscreens enabling portal access to those with the reading tech, bioenhanced soldiers augmented with nanotech, and doctors that can make diagnoses with hand-held devices able to detect medical issues, including cancer, in moments.
Sound like a stretch? It isn’t.
And maybe it isn’t all available right now from your online electronics supplier, but if you want a sneak peek into how augmented reality of the not-too-distant future may look for you, video artist Keiichi Matsuda has given us a vision of it.