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Four Terrifying Sci-Fi Technologies in the Real-World [Guest]

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) HAL 9000 (Voiced by Douglas Rain)

Here are four technologies that blur the line between Science Fiction and Science Fact.

Today we have a guest post sent to us by reader Anjali Patel about how science-fiction is getting closer to reality.

HAL 9000, the "conscious entity"/computer in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey," launched fanboys and intergalactic dreamers over the moon. Thoughts like, "What if computers rule the world one day, man?" have been dominating sci-fi movies ever since.

The HAL 9000 is represented by a red camera eye, which brings to mind Orwellian surveillance as well as the power buttons on old gaming systems. The visual aesthetic seems quaint in comparison to the technology found in films today. Cool tech, however, doesn't end when the credits roll, and there's plenty of technology that we see in films that's also used real life. From floating orbs and Iron Man-style exoskeletons to biometrics and robotaxis, reality has come to look like a Brave New World.


Visionary epic or dorm room stoner nonsense—whatever you think of "Prometheus," Ridley Scott's prequel to his 1979 masterpiece "Alien," one thing is certain: the technology and the film's otherworldly tone create an eye-popping head rush. Exploring an ancient alien temple, the crew used floating orbs to make a holographic map. These little balls of science fiction magic speed through the tunnels and caverns, mapping the landscape. However, these orbs aren't really science fiction at all, as Google Street View uses the same type of geo-mapping system. The only difference is that Google Street View doesn't map ancient alien temples. But then again, maybe it does.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Iron Man vs Alien

While the bells and whistles on Tony Stark's "Iron Man" suit are revolutionary, it's not the first mechanized exoskeleton to be used in film, nor is it much different than the powerloader suits available in Japan that increase workers strength tenfold. In 1979, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) strapped herself into a giant Iron Man-esque suit for the climactic battle scene in "Alien." While she was able to take down the alien in her gear, she'd be no match for Tony Stark, as his suit is decked out with more amenities than a superhero could ever need. While not up to Tony Stark standards, the heavy metal suits being worn by Japanese workers to lift crates and boxes are similar to the one in "Alien."

Photo by Flickr user Eva Rinaldi


From fingerprint and eye scanners to voice recognition, biometrics (advanced identification and verification systems) have been used in films as diverse as "Blade Runner," "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," and "Back to the Future II." Today, this type of technology is being used in home security systems. Home automation and remote access is the latest wave in home protection, and home alarms from LifeShield use this type of biometric authentication technology.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons


The self-driving car has always represented the idea of the future. "Total Recall," the Arnold Schwarzenegger film based on a story by Philip K. Dick, introduced us to the idea of the robotaxi. Flash forward to Masdar City, a clean-tech, sustainable community in the United Arab Emirates. According to Popular Mechanics, a European company called 2GetThere has a fleet of 10 robotaxis in Masdar City, and these autonomous vehicles carry 25,000 people per month. Of course, the taxis aren't totally autonomous, as they follow a set route and are guided by wires.

Photo by Flickr user Pop Culture Geek

With all this super-human technology, only one question remains: Does Arnold Schwarzenegger get to ride that robotaxi for free, or does he have to swipe a biometric fingerprint?

HAL 9000 image by Flickr user racatumba

Guest Post by Anjali Patel - Anjali studied Biomedical Engineering, and keeps her finger on the pulse of the tech world.

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  1. At least with the robotaxi you don't have to worry if the driver speaks English or will try to kidnap you. I still think we're a ways away from supercomputers ruling the world. I mean the computers at the grocery store can't even process my coupons.

  2. I can see the geo-mapping thing attached to Robots, much like the military used in the caves of afghanistan to find terrorist. Maybe this Tech would work for spelunkers, no more carrying a torch in a dark cave just send R2 in to do the dirty work. Also, the biometric authentication technology didn't help Bruce Wayne.

  3. Alex J. CavanaughJuly 2, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Bar codes for scanning placed in our bodies would be scary.
    Remember the story of Google Street Maps filming a guy coming out of a porn shop? I think he tried to sue. Dude, maybe you shouldn't have gone in there...

  4. i am a robot!

  5. Interesting stuff. I'm sure there will be more security and privacy issues ahead of us.

  6. Very interesting. I think that smartphones are scary. People rely on them so much there's no need for even thinking


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