Fans of futuristic movie gadgets, rejoice! It’s summer, that time of year when your multiplex is packed with science-fiction blockbusters. As a tech-inspired company, we at Esurance couldn’t be happier. On top of providing fun summer escapism, sci-fi flicks exist to forecast possible futures for our society — and the fantastical technology that might drive us there.
Of course, these predictions can turn out horribly wrong (Blade Runner’s proliferation of hover cars in 2019 seems a bit hasty). But you might be surprised at just how often they turn out right!
Here are 5 of our favorite sci-fi movie gadgets that have already come to life.
Medical tricorder from Star Trek
What it is: A sensor that Starfleet doctors wave over patients like a magic wand to instantly receive medical info on a handheld computer.
Real world incarnation: The Scanadu Scout. This medical marvel (coming early 2014) does more or less the same thing: place the sensor to your forehead and get your vital signs on your smartphone for help detecting infections on the spot.
How it’s worse than the movie gadget: It must make contact with your body.
How it’s better than the movie gadget: Easy for everyone to use, and you don’t even have to be a member of Starfleet!
Marty McFly’s shoes from Back to the Future II
What they are: Shoes. Now ordinarily, footwear wouldn’t belong in the pantheon of mind-blowing movie gadgets. But these are exceptions. They feature wraparound ankle straps, glowing LED lights, and power laces! We know what you’re thinking: “MCFLY, YOU BOJO, THOSE BOARDS DON’T WORK ON WATER!!!”
Real world incarnation: The Nike MAG. Yes, Nike styled a gorgeous replica of this famous sneaker, releasing a limited 1,500 pairs in 2011.
How they’re worse than the movie gadget: No power laces. We know, that’s huge … but they’re still pretty fly — McFly, that is. (Feel free to steal that one.)
How they’re better than the movie gadget: No tripping over the space-time continuum.
Personalized billboards from Minority Report
What they are: Mall billboards that recognize people individually and casually offer products they might enjoy, like “a refreshing Guinness” (for protagonist John Anderton) or “assorted tank tops” (for noble eyeball donor, Mr. Yakamoto).
Real world incarnation: Digital billboard from Japan’s NEC Corp. This sci-fi-worthy ad tool (unveiled in 2010) can recognize your age and gender within seconds and offer custom shopping suggestions.
How it’s worse than the movie gadget: It can’t call out to you by name.
How it’s better than the movie gadget: It can’t call out to you by name.
Lightsaber from Star Wars
What it is: Seriously?
Real world incarnation: The Maxablaster. That’s right: what sounds like a ‘90s workout video is really a Dutch optic engineer’s (probably) misguided but (definitely) fascinating venture into Lightsaber-dom. Basically, it’s a 38-million-candlepower flashlight that can illuminate a cloud 4 miles away … and lightly sear skin.
How it’s worse than the movie gadget: Not mass-produced (you’ve really gotta be the top Jedi to earn it).
How it’s better than the movie gadget: Safer, non-solid beam — you have to believe not slicing each others’ limbs off would’ve really improved Luke and Vader’s relationship, right?
Giordi La Forge’s VISOR from Star Trek: The Next Generation
What it is: A device that creates the sensation of sight for the blind in the Star Trek universe (Star Trek again? What can we say — we’re fans).
Real world incarnation: Google Glass. Google admits Star Trek has influenced much of its technology, and Google Glass can surely be seen as a nifty twist on the VISOR. While Google Glass doesn’t imbue the blind with sight, it does let you interact with the world hands-free and with visual stimuli. Plus, in the proud tradition of the VISOR, it’s a crazy-looking headband.
How it’s worse than the movie gadget: Could it lead to unsafe transportation?
How it’s better than the movie gadget: Color choices! Honestly, wouldn’t La Forge have enjoyed a nice tangerine or sky-hued VISOR for when he was off-duty?
Esurance and Google Glass
If you’re still curious about this revolutionary device, you’re not alone. Luckily, our very own web production manager, Steven Mautone (an #ifihadglass Explorer), will soon be taking Google Glass out for a spin. Does it make life easier? Does it pose a distracted driving risk? Does it laugh in the face of inferior movie gadgets dreamed up by Bradbury, Dick, or Spielberg?
All will be answered … so make sure to check back soon as we track Steven’s experience.