From movies to reality

If we believe what we see in the movies, then 2012 is the year we will meet our destiny as the apocalypse arrives. While this may be movie madness to the extreme, there is plenty of futuristic technology which now has its place in everyday life.

Film and television have long held a fascination with future technology. Perhaps technology developers take their lead from what they see on the big screen! So, just which everyday technologies started life as big screen fantasy?

Ten film concepts which have become a reality

1. The Jetsons – video conferencing
2. Harry Potter – invisibility cloak
3. Back to the Future – hover board
4. Back to the Future – robotic vendors
5. Minority report – touch-screen computing
6-10. Star Trek – flip and watch phones, translators, voice recognition, portable storage devices (CDs), automatic doors

1. The Jetsons
Everyone met George Jetson, and his son Elroy. And everyone knows that he wasn’t allowed a minute of privacy because his house was filled with state of the art video phones which teleconferenced members of his family, his robotic maid and his angry boss Mr Spacely. These gigantic video phone calls often interrupted George from whatever he was doing, and he would often fall down. However, thankfully, we in the past would never have to worry about coming face-to-face with people far away and could settle into our blissful privacy! Until teleconferencing, videophone and Skype technology was invented at the turn of the century of course. Now people in an office in Burkina Faso can have a brunch meeting with a boardroom in Burma about budgetary branch-outs without buying a plane ticket!

2. Harry Potter
In 1998 J.K Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in which Harry Potter wore an invisibility cloak, which made him transparent. Well, scientists are one step closer, and it only took them a decade, inventing a material which makes light bend away from it.

3. Back to the Future
We all had our hearts in our mouths but jealousy in our souls as Michael J Fox, as Marty McFly, got to ride on the coolest invention ever, the hoverboard in Back to the Future 2. But it seems that science has done it again, with hover technology edging closer and closer to being invented. One amazing Australian company has made the Scarpar, a power board which gives the illusion of hovering!

4. Back to the Future
One of the more biting social commentaries in Back to the Future Part 2 was that the human race would be so lazy and machine-reliant in 2015 that we would not even have a need for the humble shop keep, instead have a video screen featuring a Michael Jackson look-alike who serves us Pepsi robotically. While we are not quite there yet, we do have robotic vending machines, and Coles has gone a step further by introducing ‘self serve’ counters, which they hope to phase into each store completely, virtually eliminating the need for shop assistants. So again, the view of the future was not too distant.

5. Minority Report
One of the most amazing things about the Tom Cruise thriller Minority Report was the amazing technology. When Tom Cruise began working on a touch screen computer in Minority Report, many thought he must have had some kind of alien technology. Now, only years later, we have the gift of iPhones, iPads, navigational GPS systems and all the other touch-screen computer systems that make our lives that little it easier.

6. Star Trek
Star Trek truly was one of the most revolutionary shows to ever appear on the air. With some of the most forward-thinking writers ever, many of the revolutionary technologies which appeared in the future in star trek are beginning to pop up in the ‘noughties’ and the ‘tenties’. One of the most useful is spray on anaesthesia. In star trek, so the doctors didn’t have to use needles, they would spray on medicine to heal wounds. There is now a spray on local anaesthesia which can be administered, and doctors are also working on a ‘medical hypospray’ which actually absorbs through the skin!

7. Star Trek
We have also seen the concept of automatic revolving/horizontal lifting mechanical doors come out of Star Trek. They have become a necessity in nuclear facilities, airlocks and the like and were born right out of this 1960s era sci-fi.

8. Star Trek
It seems that Star Trek also invented a precursor to the mobile phone. The characters carried flip phone style communicators, and were able to communicate with the ship when down on the planet.

9. Star Trek
Perhaps most interestingly, it seems that Star Trek came up with the notion of the miniature mass storage device. In times when computers were the size of a house and would perhaps store 40 megabytes of ram, Star Trek came up with the notion of a miniature mass storage device, akin to a CD or most likely a USB, like we have so readily available today, essential for not only for the running for the Starship Enterprise, but business and day to day life of human beings today.

10. Star Trek again!
One of the most amazing precursors Star Trek came up with that human beings were sure to have never thought possible was voice recognition. In the show, the characters used voice recognition to distinguish themselves as a security measure. Today thanks to countless brilliant minds, we can use voice recognition to enter our house, car, call people on our cell phone and a myriad of other options which make our lives that tiny bit simpler.

However not all the predictions that were made in film and television have come true. Humans today can’t say “beam me up Scotty” and be transported as matter to any destination. While scientists are getting closer to transporting light, one would contend that the days until matter transportation is invented are still a while away yet. And space houses, flying cars, magic wands, time travel and a robotic maid named Rosie are all things we can look forward to in the very distant future.

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