Science fiction is terrific at helping you imagine how you'd enhance, hack, and upgrade your own body — especially your eyeballs. Humans have been trying to improve on the sense of sight since 1300, when spectacles were invented. What comes next? Take a look at our list of some of the vision enhancement tools that science fiction has offered up. It goes way beyond seeing more clearly or getting a glimpse of the infrared side of the spectrum.
- Geordi LaForge's visor: When Star Trek launched The Next Generation in XXX, one of the most striking visuals was Levar Burton wearing what looked like a car air filter over his eyes. The visor allowed his character, who was born blind, to see in the infrared spectrum, at the microscopic level, and to detect energy levels. He could even detect vital signs and tell if someone was lying, making him handy to have around. However, he must have been happy when the First Contact film came around, because he didn't have to wear that wacky visor anymore.
- Predator-Vision: In the Predator films, the titular aliens have evolved to the point where they have developed their own infrared vision. However, they've invented helmets with enhancements that take the vision even further, letting them see with X-Ray vision, to detect radioactive sources, auto-target, and even (in the Aliens Vs. Predator films) to see with sort kind of electro-magnetic vision that allows them to track Aliens, who don't show up on infrared scanners. While those helmets looked sleek and cool with awesome functions, they still resembled fugly crab-aliens underneath.
- Luke Skywalker's binoculars: When Luke was trapped on Tatooine as a teenager, he had loads of time to daydream and imagine what life was like on other worlds. So he'd frequently scan the sky and the horizon with his binoculars, hoping to find some sort of excitement. Plus, they came in handy when R2D2 and C3P0 went missing. No idea what all the different numbers and gauges mean, besides distance (maybe Luke had ganked his Uncle's golf binocs) but the view through them was 1977 gee-whiz tech.
- Cyclop's visor from The X-Men: This special visor which was outfitted with ruby quartz lenses that have the ability to block his optic blasts. So, it might not allow him to see things closer or at the molecular level, but it does keep him from blowing the hell out of everyone and everything he looks at. If you ask us, that's not a bad enhancement. Later he was able to sport some ruby quartz sunglasses, although that sort of makes his "Cyclops" name a bit useless.
- The glasses in William Gibson's Virtual Light: In this novel, the characters are trying to track down a pair of glasses that you can't see through. Instead, they use EMP drivers to send signals directly to your optic nerve. As a result, they allow you to see without having photos hit your retinas, and they can also pump more information into the signal. For instance, one of the characters describes that the glasses cost about the same as a "small Japanese car", and that when you look at things through them, "Put 'em on, you go out walking, everything looks normal, but every plant you see, every tree, there's this little label hanging there, what its name is, Latin under that." One pair to go, please.
- Nanotech eyes in Deus Ex: In Warren Spector's dystopian future video game, you play a "nanotech operative" who has the ability to upgrade and enhance his body in the field, which you'll have to do in order to complete the game. One of the coolest modifications was upgrading your eyes so you could see in the dark and through walls. This usually comes in handy when people are trying to kill you, as you can imagine.
- The HUD in Down and Out in the Magic Kindom: In Cory Doctorow's future, people live with onboard computers in their brains that allow them to make phone calls, record their daily lives through sight and sound, and provide heads-up displays in their eyes where they can check the time, read files, surf the web, and check other people's "whuffie" scores. Whuffie basically tells you "how cool is this person?" and becomes the currency of the day. As interesting as that is, we're most exciting by surfing the net on our eyeballs.
- The sunglasses in They Live: In John Carpenter's "I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum" humans vs. aliens film, former pro wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper finds a pair of very special sunglasses. They let him see the world as it actually is with fugly aliens controlling the human race, subliminal messages they keep them sedate and to "Obey." Of course, Roddy isn't too happy with this, and goes on a killing spree.
- The Bionic Eye: In both the Six Million Dollar Man and the newly rebooted The Bionic Woman (sorry old Bionic woman, you got stuck with a Bionic ear), the main characters are both outfitted with bionic eyes that give them the ability to zoom in on subjects and see into the infrared. Not one was this one of the coolest Bionic upgrades in my opinion, but it also made for the best action figure I ever lost. Colonel Steve Austin's action figure had a big hole in his head that you could look through to "simulate" bionic vision. My parents probably thought I'd glued that thing to my head. Bionic eyes or bionic contact lenses, let's hope you get here soon.