They say science fiction is only that until science and technology catches up, at which point it becomes science fact. So it’s no surprise that the world of cinema has made many sci-fi and technology predictions that have eventually come true.
Sure, everyone is still complaining we don’t have hoverboards, as predicted by history’s greatest sci-fi film, Masters of the Universe (the first to feature a hovering board used for transport – see also: Back To The Future Part II), but there have also been many movies that have been right on the money.
Speeder Bike, Star Wars: Episode VI
Believe it or not, a company in the US has invented a working hover bike, or speeder bike, a la Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Aerofex’s hover bike will set you back a cool US$100,000, but imagine the look on your friend’s faces when you fire it up at your next BBQ.
Combat Drones, The Terminator
The scene is a familiar one: A small band of rebel fighters cower behind rocks, evading the assault of aerial drones flying overhead, that release all manner of precision-guided munitions in a bid to eradicate the pesky humans from the face of the earth.
Meanwhile, almost 30 years previously, James Cameron showed us a glimpse of this future in The Terminator (1984) – where machines wage relentless war against man, led by an artificial intelligence, known as Skynet. The only part Cameron failed to predict was that we’d be too busy checking Facebook on our phones to notice any sort of drone flying above us.
Google Glass, Robocop
Nothing beats the thrill of watching Robocop draw his Auto 9 machine pistol and take aim at a bad guy, aided by his futuristic Heads Up Display (HUD). The technology had actually been around in airplane cockpits for a while, but the personal version shown in Robocop (1987) would take another 26 years to materialise, in the form of Google Glass.
Sure, Google Glass may not assist with weapon sighting (that would contradict Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ policy), but don’t let that stop you throwing on a pair and making a few ‘pew-pew’ sounds.
Roomba, Rocky 2
Truly one of the most mystifying moments ever seen in a movie was Paulie’s birthday in Rocky 2. As a robot butler trundles into the room with a birthday cake on a tray, visions of the future, where robots would carry out all our domestic desires, were dangled before us like electronic carrots. So what did we eventually get? Roomba.
Naked Body Scanners, Flying High II
Not strictly a sci-fi movie, 1982’s Flying High II (or Airplane II in the US of A) made one very realistic prediction about air travel: the nude body scanner. While the on-screen gag lasted no more than a few seconds – which were likely stretched to a few minutes in many home VCR slow-mo sessions – full body scanners came into usage in airports in many countries from 2007 onwards.
Siri, 2001: A Space Odyssey
The idea of a talking computer has been about since the first R.U.R. (that’s Google fodder) stood upright, but no movie gave it more than a cursory exploration until Stanley Kubrik’s 1968 sci-fi opera, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke (The Sentinel), a central character in the film is an artificial intelligence, known as HAL 9000. HAL may not be the wisecracking know-it-all Siri has become, but he certainly knew how to hold a steady conversation with the mission’s crew, control all space ship systems and kill the occasional human.
Self-Driving Cars, Total Recall
Total Recall: Homicidal Johnny Cab by KirkCliff2
Total Recall (1990) has contributed a number of sci-fi-cum-sci-fact realities in our time, but none more fascinating than the self-driving car, or Johnny Cab, in the movie. Both Google and Audi have self-driving cars in the works, which we’ll likely see available to the public in the next 5 years.
Kinect for Xbox, Minority Report
You can bet the computer/smartphone you’re reading on that a few folks at Microsoft stood up and took notice of 2002’s Tom Cruise-helmed, Minority Report. In the film, Cruise stands in front of a large computer display, shifting screens about with simple hand gestures – no mouse, no keyboard, no clicking the wrong link and hoping it doesn’t load before you click the right one.
Kinect for Xbox signalled the beginning of gesture control in a major way. Using hand swipes, stretching gestures, and grabbing and pulling, you can navigate through your Xbox’s menu just like a Hollywood movie star.
Metropolis has captured the imagination of many a fan since it was released in 1927. Featuring mind-blowing ideas on technology, it was one of the first films to feature characters using a videophone.
Today, the most widely accessible version of this is Skype. The celluloid portrayal is eerily accurate; fiddle with a few knobs to get it working, then VOILA! A fuzzy, flickering picture.
Flying Car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Like most of the population, you were probably tickled pink upon your first viewing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The 1968 movie, based on the children’s book by Ian ‘James Bond’ Fleming, thrilled all with a car that sprouted wings and took its occupants way up into the sky.
Now you can live the same dream, with the Terrafugia Transition; a car that converts from a single-seater road vehicle into a 172 km/h aircraft in the push of a button. At a mere US$279,000, it’s guaranteed to turn heads when you rock up to your next parent-teacher interview.