Some of the sci-fi technologies invented by the film industry are already available on the market, such as exoskeletons, self-driving cars and the new artificial intelligence from Microsoft. Does this mean we will soon see flying cars, a device that wipes the target’s memory, and viable methods to teleport objects?
The first flying car was used by Fantomas, a French movie character, in Fantomas Unleashed (Fantômas se déchaîne, 1965). Later similar vehicles appeared in more productions – Back to the Future Part II (1989), The Fifth Element (1997) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). In reality, flying car prototypes have been created more than once. In August 2014, the latest third generation aeromobile project was tested, one of the most advanced vehicles in the world.
Interactive digital TV
With the Wink platform, predicted in The Cable Guy (1996), the user can watch various channels, as well as use a webcam to see how an icebreaker plows through ice thousands of kilometers away from home by easily switching between devices without logging off and on.
The idea was contemplated in Star Wars (1999), The Matrix (1999) and Alien (1979). Now exoskeletons are produced by both Russian and foreign companies. The United States is currently testing DARPA equipment primarily intended for US military. The device enables them to travel kilometers and lift up to 90 kg without any risk to their health.
RFID chips first appeared in Demolition Man (1993). The first implantation took place in 1998. For quite a long time, the technology was considered a solely private initiative. In Sweden, people have microchips inserted under their own skin to pay for purchases and public transit. A total of 3,000 Swedes live with RFID implants today. In June 2017, representatives of SJ Rail (a Swedish rail company) announced that almost 100 people had paid their train fares with implanted chips. Swedish doctors claim the chips help to monitor their owners’ health and, for example, military personnel with microchip implants will have their health data available on them in case they need first aid. In Russia, microchipping has only been discussed for animals. But sometimes we hear about experiments – for example, volunteers can get an RFID implant at the Tomsk University.
The first teleport featured in The Fly (1958). But the idea of instant travel became particularly popular only when Star Trek (1966) came out. The generation of the 1990s could watch teleportation in another iconic TV show, Charmed. As for reality, Russian physicist Sergei Filippov and his Slovak colleague Mario Ziman developed a technology that transfers quanta, microscopic particles that are capable of storing data at a distance. He believes that in two or three decades this technology will allow moving items instantly. There has been no discussion of human teleportation yet.
The first smart car equipped with a robot driver featured in Total Recall (1990). Engineers started developing prototypes of vehicles running on autopilots in the mid 1950s. Today self-driving vehicles (without robot drivers though) can already be seen on the roads. Their major producers include Google, Tesla and Uber.
The technology and the consequences of its use were featured in the movies Men in Black (1997), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), and Paycheck (2003). In 2009, American scientists discovered a ‘memory molecule.’ A technology has been developed to monitor the molecules in the neural network and ‘open’ or ‘close’ access to certain parts of the brain.
The most famous movie featuring this superpower is The Invisible Man (1993), based on Herbert Wells’ science fiction novel of the same name. Later, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone featured a cloak of invisibility, which might not be so fantastical after all. Canadian scientists developed so-called metamaterials, some of which can bend electromagnetic radiation, such as light, around an object, giving the appearance that it isn’t there. One of US universities created a technology based on photothermic deflection; it uses carbon nanotubes to ‘erase’ visible objects.
The idea of the dominance of a computer overmind first appeared in The Terminator (1984). Current technologies include virtual assistants that resemble real people. AI is developing and conquering the internet. Almost all large companies use chatbots whose answers cannot be differentiated from the ones of real people. In 2016, Microsoft presented Tay the chatbot that interacted with users on Twitter. Several hours after launching the project, the company had to shut down the service as the bot began to use profanity and post offensive comments through its Twitter account; the company deleted the tweets. Then Microsoft posted the chatbot’s farewell message on Twitter. In 2014, the company presented its new project, the AI system Xiaoice; the bot’s answers are no different from those by real people and it can even make jokes. Other popular projects in the market include personal assistants Siri and Alice, which operate as companions for people who feel lonely.
The concept of freezing of a human body and its consequences were shown in Vanilla Sky (2001) and Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994). In actual life, the concept of cryonics was developed by Robert Ettinger in the early 1960s. Ettinger’s body was placed in a cryonic capsule and frozen in 2011. In the United States, such research is conducted by two large noncommercial organizations, who have been preserving bodies in the hope that one day medical technology will bring them back to life. Cryonic preservation costs between $50,000 and $250,000.
A jetpack prototype first appeared in the James Bond movie Thunderball (1965). A similar device was later shown in The Rocketeer (1991) and then in RoboCop 3 (1992). A jetpack was first featured during the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In 2008, Martin Jetpack Company unveiled a new variant of the technology – a single-person aircraft that consists of a pair of cylinders containing ducted fans attached to a carbon-fiber frame. The pilot straps into it and controls the jetpack with two joysticks. According to the manufacturer, the product was to have been launched in 2015 – however, no information is available so far of its presence in the market.
By Christina Firsova