Reel to Real: Technological Depictions in Movies that aren’t Fiction any more

Hollywood has always been the harbinger of new ideas and innovations that may seem too surreal when the movie releases, but do actually turn into reality in a couple of decades or even less. Although very often, movies go overboard with their depictions what with all the movies that have been made on time travel and alien attacks, there are also a large number of instances where the technology shown in the movie has gone on become commonplace years after the movie’s release. Here are some such examples.

1. Smart devices

Smart hand held devices have become a part of people’s lives now, all thanks to Apple’s iPhone and iPad as well as the products of the other companies who are in a rat race to develop more user friendly interfaces and apps-loaded smartphones. But when the “tricorder” was first depicted in the Star Trek series of the late 60s, it was just enjoyed as incredulous science fiction gadgetry that had a very slim chance of becoming a reality.

2. Space tourism

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was well ahead of its times when it depicted the space tourism in 1968. The lesser known Destination Moon that released in the year 1950 not only gave a very close scientific depiction of the manned moon mission that didn’t happen until 1969, it also had hints of commercial interest in space travel. But going by Virgin Galactic’s headways in this aspect, commercialization of space travel has become a reality and space tourism is well on its way to become a mundane affair in the coming years.

3. Body scanner

While terrorist threats and the overzealousness of the U.S. government meant that checks through body scanners became routine affair in the country’s airports in 2010, Total Recall had depicted a similar device in 1990 itself. While it raised quite a few eyebrows then, funnily it was much less invasive then the real body scanners actually are.

4. Cloning

It may have been just a coincidence that the year Multiplicity released viz. 1996 was also the year the first mammal was cloned in the form of Dolly the sheep. The 6th Day which released in 2000 was also based on human cloning. Although scientists have restricted themselves to cloning of animals this long, it has more to do with legal bans then the lack of technology. But recently scientists have cloned human stem cells as well paving the way for a full-fledged human clone in the future.

5. Autonomous car

Whether it be the Batmobile depicted in the serials and movies of Batman or similar self-driving cars depicted in the movie Minority Report and Total Recall, such autonomous cars already exist thanks to technological triumphs like the GPS, radar and lidar so much so that these cars have even been legalized in three US states.

6. Cloak of invisibility

Whether you are a fan of the Harry Potter movies or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you must have yearned for a cloak of invisibility for the sheer joy of vanishing and doing things unnoticed. Even the 1989 film Erik the Viking had the protagonist use the cloak of invisibility. Thanks to people like the “invisibility expert” Professor Leonhardt and Janos Perczel, such cloaks have become a reality albeit not fully developed or commercialized yet.


7. Reality TV

Though not exactly a technological innovation as much as a social one, reality TV shows have become the bread and butter of the television viewers of the present generation. But Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger depicted such a game show as early as 1987 although much more violent than we actually watch on TV. Even the fantastic The Truman Show predicted the voyeuristic nature of TV programs in 1998, and it was only a year later that the show Big Brother aired for the first time on TV.

8. Overpopulation

Although overpopulation and its effects haven’t yet reached such mammoth proportions as shown in the 1973 movie Soylent Green, yet the premise of the movie where New York City is shown shattered by overpopulation and the food crisis and climate change accompanying it, seems to be turning prophetic with each passing day.

9. Genetic profiling

Although the world portrayed in Gattaca, where the value of the individual is solely based upon the superiority of his genes and hence genetically engineered babies are the norm of the day, may seem a bit overdone, but if recent advances in this field are considered, it may not be improbable altogether. Scientists have already identified or are in the process of discovering, the various genes which can predict anything from criminal behaviour to obesity in the foetus, and we are already facing the ethical dilemma related to such findings and their implications.

10. Robot maid

While Rosie the Robot Maid of the animation TV series The Jetsons may be far from becoming a reality, still going by present advancement in the form of the iRobot Roomba, a fully developed robot maid doesn’t seem too incredulous. And Honda’s “Asimo” has also got really close to fully realizing the robotic depictions in the 2004 movie I, Robot.

Image sources:

1. Poster of “2001: A Space Odyssey”:

2. Poster of “Multiplicity”:


Surojit Chakraborty

Writer, HR, Bibliophile, Polyglot, Optimist

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