Why Boeing plans to add Star Wars sound effects to its real-life laser weapon

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Jun 9, 2015

It might still evoke visions of science fiction, but laser weapons are most definitely science fact — and now Boeing wants to take a page out of Star Wars just to send the point home.

Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) uses silent, invisible laser beams ... which basically means you don’t really know if it worked unless the thing you’re pointing it at blows up. So how can we be sure the laser fired? Boeing wants to add the classic laser blast sounds we’re already familiar with from Star Wars. Yes, seriously.  

Ideally, the tech will be used to blast drones or enemy missiles out of the sky with a 10-kW fibre laser that should be extremely precise. But in testing, engineers were sometimes not even sure if the weapon was working. So the next version of the HEL MD could feature built-in sound effects to alert the user that the weapon fired. 

“The engagements happen quickly, and unless you're staring at a screen 24–7 you'll never see them,”  Boeing electrophysics engineer Stephanie Blount told Nature. “So we've built sound in for whenever we fire the laser. We plan on taking advantage of lots of Star Trek and Star Wars sound bites.”

This is a fascinating example of life imitating art, and it even brings a much needed functionality to the weapons tech. Plus, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to hear that sound effect when shooting a real-life laser blaster?

(Via Mental Floss, Nature)