The best movies create new worlds. These worlds feel real, brought to life by incredibly detailed costume, stage and story design. However, it is often the technology of world that drives the story – and captures our imagination.
From the Holodeck to hoverboards, movie tech can range from pure fiction to rumoured prototypes. But no matter how it gets on the screen, we always want it to become real.
Let’s take a closer look at the coolest tech to have made it from the big screen to the real world.
The practice of mapmaking is so old that it is impossible to place an exact date on when it began, however, it has become an integral part of human and movie history. Films like The Goonies, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean revolve around the main characters following a map to lead the story – yet how different would these stories have been using the map tech from Prometheus?
One of the most thought-provoking scenes in the Alien prequel movie was the use of miniature spherical drones to map out the shape and depth of the tunnel system that the main characters find themselves lost in. The drones were totally autonomous in the missions to search every inch of space and send back detailed information.
This might not see that farfetched compared to other items in this article, but that is more a testament to how much drones have evolved in recent years. The professional drone market was rudimental at best in 2012 when Prometheus was released, let alone the consumer market.
Yet, the latest drones are bridging the gap between the Prometheus drones and the real world. The European Space Agency has recently begun to use drones that deliberately bump into its surroundings to map hard to reach places in caves. While it is not yet at the level of Prometheus, the thought of being this close five years ago would have been unbelievable.
Food from Nothing
If you have watched either of the Harry Potter or Star Trek franchises, there will be many aspects that are sure to start the imagination running wild. But before you start to cast your “Accio Firebolt” spell or telling people to “Make it so”, there is something these two very different worlds have in common: the conjuring of food from thin air.
Imagine the world where we could avoid the hassle of having to prep, cook or buy food on a regular basis but merely summon it from thin air. While Harry Potter relied on magic and house elves, Star Trek took the step into tech with its Replicator machinery. In our present day, the fact that technology has developed a way to replicate this magic in the real world is mind blowing.
Every day, people are learning that 3D food printing is actually a possibility and restaurants and companies alike are now producing food from powder mixtures that solidify when printed. Currently aimed at the artistic food market or people who struggle to eat solid foods, this movie tech is surely the way of the future for dinner parties.
The history of movies is littered with classic timepieces. Some are inaccessible to the public – like James Bond’s trick watches – while some are just a little twist on the possible, like Dr. Strange’s incredible watch drawer, which could be replicated if you cared to invest in 30 or so watch winders. Similarly, we do now have the smart watches popularised by Dick Tracy and Back to the Future II.
Despite being made well before the age of a mobile phone in every pocket, both films played on the ability to make calls from a wristwatch. Yet only two decades later we have smart watches from Apple, Samsung, and Garmin that offer a far superior range of features such as health monitoring, music speakers and even the ability to video call. Imagine the crimes Dick Tracy could have solved with today’s tech!
When Minority Report hit the big screen in 2002, it seemed impossibly futuristic with its personalised advertising, retina scanners, jet packs and self-driving cars. Yet less than 15 years later, most of the movie’s tech has since come to pass including the one from its most imitated scenes: the gesture interface.
Tom Cruise’s character John Anderton wore special gloves to throw files, text, video, and pictures around a giant screen throughout the opening half of the movie. Making file organisation truly cool, it’s no surprise that Tony Stark used a similar system in Iron Man.
Since then, both Nintendo and Microsoft have tried to integrate the technology into their consoles to bring another dimension to game play. Similarly, independent company Leap Motion had some initial success with a small microchip for Windows based computers in 2013.
There continues to be interest in the area with new companies like Thalmic labs producing their Myo band to control gestures or even DJI implementing gesture control into their newest drone, the Spark. Surely, it won’t be much longer before we can throw our mice away and control our emails with the wave of a hand!