10 Movies that Helped Create Real Technology

first_img Netflix Axes ‘The OA’ Sci-Fi Series After 2 Seasons‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ Becomes Mostly Harm… Science fiction has a habit of turning into science fact. Usually, that’s because a good sci-fi writer has some level of scientific knowledge, or at least interest. They can look at where the world is now and extrapolate. That way, they end up with a pretty good guess that turns out to be true. You see this a lot in classic sci-fi novels, many of which prioritized the concepts over things like story and character. (I love Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, but man is their early writing dry.)Other times, fantasy becomes a reality despite the original work not having too firm a scientific basis. Someone had an idea, they put it on paper or film, and it ended up happening. You see this a lot in movies and TV, even when that work’s use of technology is basically a stand-in for magic. Usually, that happens because whoever write the thing thought the idea was cool. Then, somebody else with knowledge, money or both saw it and agreed that it was cool. So, they threw everything they had at it and figured out a way to make it happen. We’re going to guess that’s what happened with most of these movies that inspired real tech.Star Trek: The Motion Picture: SmartwatchesStar Trek already predicted a future where we’d carry around the means to communicate with each other in our pocket. The show even predicted the flip-open designs we all had in the early 2000s. Don’t lie, you fliped that thing open like Kirk more than once. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a couple of short decades later, those functions would be contained in a watch. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had the crew of the Enterprise swap out their handheld communicators for Snazzy wrist versions. Just like we’ve done with products like the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Pixel Watch, etc. Turns out we like the idea of talking to our wrist. Yes, I guess the idea was popularized by Dick Tracy comics long before this, but we’re talking about movies here. Besides, when the technology first came out, you probably weren’t thinking of an old-timey detective comic strip. You wanted to be a Starfleet captain.Total Recall: Self-Driving CarsThe technology is here, and just around the corner from widespread release. In the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi/action flick, Douglas Quaid hops into a Johnny Cab, which offered to drive him wherever he wanted to go. That’s exactly what Lyft and Uber intend to do. Once the technology is tested enough, they’ll add autonomous taxis to their fleet. Car companies like Ford and Chevy are also preparing for a future where people don’t buy cars, instead relying on automated taxi services to get them where they’re going. They may not have a creepy-looking dummy in the driver’s seat, but a robot will still drive you around. Also in the movie, Quaid meets a real human cab driver who says he needs to feed his family, unlike the Johnny cabs. So the movie also predicted the horrific jobs crisis this tech would bring too.2001: A Space Odyssey: Video Calls, Tablets, and Digital AssistantsWatching this movie now, it’s wild that it came out in 1968. We may not be casually sending manned space missions to Jupiter yet, but it got a few things right about our modern world. I guess that’s what happens when you work with Arthur C. Clarke. You might argue that video calling was something everyone could have predicted. Phones had been around for a while, and television had become a mainstay in American homes. It would only be a matter of time before we combined the two somehow. In the movie, Dr. Heywood Floyd makes a call to his daughter in a video phone booth. Though they use smartphones to do the job, that is exactly how parents talk to their kids when they’re away on business now.Though the movie failed to predict smartphones, it did have everyone reading and working on tablets. In the same scene where Dr. Floyd makes a video call, he passes by a table full of people, each with their noses buried in tablets. Whether they’re reading, looking over important documents or just messing around, that’s a common site at any airport these days. Stanley Kubrick and Clarke had an idea for how people might read and interact in the future. Tech companies looked at that and said, “actually, yeah, let’s make that.”The same can definitely be said for HAL, the artificial intelligence the astronauts rely on to run different aspects of the ship. The way the humans interact with it, and the way it talks back definitely reminds us of Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and sure, Cortana too. There’s no way you can tell me those weren’t based at least in part on HAL. The only difference is, none of them will try to kill you. Probably.Minority Report: Touch- and Motion-based InterfacesHave you been frustrated by desktop UI designed for a touch screen you don’t have? Or maybe you do have one, but are annoyed by how many taps and swipes it takes to get to the setting you want. Or you just wondered why Microsoft tried so hard to make the Kinect happen. You can blame Minority Report. Everyone saw the way Tom Cruise swiped around data and icons in the air and said, “I want one of those!” And so UI designers have been trying to give us one of those ever since. Even when, in the case of the Kinect especially, it wasn’t nearly as fluid as the tech in the movie. Which was kind of the whole point.The movie itself might not have been all that great, but the tech in it was impressively spot-on. We have retinal scanners, touch/gesture-based UI, and targeted advertising, all of which made appearances in the film. Of all the dystopian hellscapes in sci-fi Minority Report’s is the one we’re most likely to end up living.Never Say Never Again: Laser WatchMan, humans really love shoving things into watches. James Bond was always known for his gadgets, and he had a number of different watch functions over the years. Never Say Never Again, the non-Eon adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Thunderball starring an older Sean Connery, was the first to outfit him with a laser watch. Well, an inventor named Patrick Priebe saw that scene and decided to make one of his own. The thing actually works, too. And it does more than just put a red dot on the wall for your cat to play with. In fact, keep this thing away from any cat. It’s one of those high-powered blue lasers that can cut tape and burn things. As he says on the site, the watch is too small to hold a battery that can charge this thing for any usable length of time. But hey, this is a piece of technology that only exists because a guy saw it in a movie.Back to the Future Part II: Power Laces and Wearable TechBack to the Future Part II inspired a lot of inventions by having a wild future that wasn’t all that far away from when the movie was made. By the time 2015 actually did come around, people were wondering why the world didn’t look like the one this movie promised. Flying cars were still just out of reach, but why not some of the smaller inventions. We got so desperate, we started calling those exploding plastic toys “hoverboards,” despite the fact that they had wheels and did not hover at all. But we did get those sweet power laces. They aren’t as ubiquitous as the movie would imply, but Nike did start developing them once 2015 came around. They went on sale in select Nike stores in November 2016 (so, about a year late), for $720. No wonder they never caught on.Later, we see the McFly family sit down to dinner in the future. We never got the dehydrated pizza (thankfully) or a fax machine in every room, but we did kind of get those glasses Marty’s kids wear. Through those glasses, they talk to friends and consume garbage entertainment. In real life, we got Google Glass, which allowed you to do all the same stuff. Again, it didn’t catch on the way Back to the Future: Part II thought it would, but this tech actually exists. The one thing the movie got wrong: wearing the glasses made you look way more punchable in real life.Blade Runner: Video BillboardsWe’re only a year away from the setting of Blade Runner, and there’s a lot in the movie we don’t have yet. Of course, the one invention we do have is the one that sells you stuff. That’s just where our priorities lie. The opening of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic is filled with shots of a futuristic Los Angeles. One image that stuck in people’s minds is the giant video billboard of a woman dressed as a geisha eating candy. We may not have gotten that particular advertisement, but giant animated ads are everywhere now. Along highways, on city streets, hell, brave Times Square during tourist season and you’ll find tons of people taking selfies with the biggest, most expensive video billboards in the world. Blade Runner may tell a story of oppression and humanity, but it also inspired one more way to bombard you with ads. Isn’t the future great?Short Circuit: Military RobotsThis 80s family comedy follows Steve Guttenberg and a racist caricature of an Indian person as they interact with a wacky military robot. The robot gets struck by lightning and starts cracking wise all over the place. This is not a movie that has aged well. One aspect that did though: The U.S. military totally does work with robots. Robots that roll along the ground on treads much like Johnny 5’s. And just like in the movie, the real-life robots can kill you. Take the MAARS robot, for example. There are some differences, though not as many as you might think. Sure, the Short Circuit robots, the ones who weren’t given sentience by a lightning bolt, use lasers to kill you while MAARS uses regular bullets. But MAARS is equipped with a laser too. Don’t worry though, it’ll just blind you. So in that respect, it’s kind of a friendly robot. Give it a funny voice and cute eyes and we might have something here.Smart House: Smart HomesWho would have thought a Disney Channel movie would be so prescient? Smart House was one of the Disney Channel’s earlier originals, and its ideas seemed pretty far-fetched at the time. A family wins the chance to live in a futuristic house where everything is controlled by a learning A.I. She’ll clean, cook, and set the lights and temperature just how you want them. She’ll also fly into an overprotective, jealous rage and prevent you from leaving. Yeah, some of these early DCOMs were straight up horror movies. But look how much we can automate our homes now. Your lights can be smart, you’re air conditioner can be smart. And if you don’t have a robot vacuuming your house at this point, what are you even doing? A whole generation of kids watched this cautionary tale and jumped at the first chance to model their own homes after it. The only difference is, our smart devices won’t actively hold us hostage. They’ll just sell all our personal information and usage habits to whoever’s buying. Much better.Woman in the Moon: Multi-Stage Rocket LaunchThe first silent film to show man going to the moon was Georges Méliès’ 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon. It wasn’t the most scientific depiction. The vessel was shot to the moon by a cannon. That’s… not how we do it. Nearly three decades later, and 40 years before we’d actually make the trip, one silent film got it basically right. Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Moon showed a multi-stage launch that looks remarkably like what NASA would later do in real life. It helps that Lang worked with real rocket scientists to make sure the science in the movie was as accurate as possible. It even included elements of human space travel that would actually be put into practice. Like foot straps to keep astronauts in place in zero-gravity. Or horizontal seats to compensate for g-forces. Or a pool of water beneath the rocket to dissipate heat and noise. It really is amazing how right this movie got it. Woman in the Moon showed audiences for the first time what human spaceflight would look like, decades before anyone would do it for real. Stay on targetlast_img

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