Given that a large proportion of Silicon Valley is made up of sci-fi geeks, it’s no surprise that over the years tech has focused on bringing to life many of the once outlandish concepts seen in movies, TV series and comic books.
With the Apple Watch bringing several more of these to life -- Dick Tracy’s 2-Way Wrist Radio among them -- we thought the time was right to run down our 8 favorite sci-fi gadgets we’d love to see turn into actual products, as outlandish as some of them might be.
After all, you never know when Bill Gates is going to be scanning a blog, looking for ways to unload his fortune.
From Star Wars's Millennium Falcon to The Dark Knight’s Tumbler, sci-fi and fantasy movies have given us plenty of iconic vehicles over the years. Perhaps none have inspired more viewer envy, however, than the hoverboard first used by Marty McFly in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II.
Enabling young Marty to zip, skateboard-like, through busy streets (but don’t think about riding it over water) owning a genuine hoverboard has been the stuff dreams are made of ever since. There have been a few attempts to bring the technology into the real world, but most of these have turned out to be either crushingly disappointing hoaxes or, frankly, a bit rubbish.
Scratch what we just said-- The Iron Man armor may be even better than Marty McFly’s hoverboard. An armor-plated exoskeleton powered by a miniaturized Arc Reactor, Iron Man’s red-and-yellow suit provides a normal (well, relatively normal) civilian with the ability to fly, sustain huge amounts of damage, and fire repulser blasts from its hands.
The notion of time travel has fascinated sci-fi fans since H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine. In movies, we’ve seen various memorable takes on the concept — from the DeLorean in Back to the Future to Dr. Who’s TARDIS. As much as we’d welcome the possibility of a real, working time machine however, it seems close to a certainty that we won’t be getting one, well, ever. Why? Because as per the Fermi paradox, if time travel was going to be possible at some point in the future, wouldn’t we have seen a few travelers by now?
We’d happily forgive that logical oversight, however, if someone would just hurry up and build one. Our first order of business if they did? Travel back to December 12, 1980, of course, and buy all the Apple stock we could lay our grubby little hands on. Without someone unravelling our own future lives with some kind of Butterfly Effect-related mishap, naturally.
Okay, if we can’t have a time machine at least give us a Star Trek-style Transporter to get from one location to another. The meta-story behind the Transporter is adoringly low rent. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's original plan was to have the Enterprise land every episode, which was quickly ruled out due to the costs of carrying out the necessary model work. Next he switched to picturing a shuttlecraft, although the full-sized shooting model was not ready when filming began. Teleportation — which required just a simple fade-in/fade-out special effect — was the fallback option.
In the real world, of course, it’s turned out not be such an easy answer after all. Teleportation has occurred, but only on a quantum level. Earlier this year, scientists announced a reliable way of transferring data by quantum teleportation, but that’s still a long way from “Beam me up, Scotty.”
Hopefully they’ll test the human-sized technology on a redshirt first.
The iPad has a touchscreen, you say? Not like the one in Minority Report, it doesn’t. The 2002 Tom Cruise movie features Cruise’s police chief character whipping through screens of information and manipulating video playback simply by waving his hands in front of an ephemeral digital screen. In fact, despite its futuristic setting Minority Report is one of the most grounded sci-fi films out there in terms of its attention to detail. Director Steven Spielberg consulted Silicon Valley’s top experts on how they saw technology taking shape over the coming decades, and put their conclusions into the movie.
This is why it’s hardly surprising that 12 years after Minority Report landed in movie theaters, researchers at Bristol University in the UK have developed similar technology in the form of a haptic screen manipulated via soundwave vibrations. Provided the interface turns out to be user-friendly there’s no reason we won’t see this particular technology become a reality.
This is a common trope of science fiction, and is getting a whole lot closer thanks to the impressive artificial intelligence systems being honed by the likes of Google. But a real-time version of the Babel Fish from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (which instantly understands and translates spoken words in foreign languages) would be one of the most useful tools ever. It would be kind of like hearing Phil Schiller dubbed into Mandarin at the glitchy start of Tuesday’s keynote, only without the hair-tearing frustration.
Remember that nifty pen-sized gadget from Men in Black that let agents wipe the mind of anyone they wanted to, simply by flashing a bright light in their eyes? Depending on the chosen setting, the Neuralizer can erase memories going back hours, weeks, months, or even years — with the recipient then susceptible to suggestions about what happened during those blank patches. (A deneuralyzer, by comparison, is a special chamber that can be used to reverse the effects of the neuralyzer.)
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like any such device is likely to make it to market (or into reality) any time soon. Think of the possibilities if it did, though, particularly if you’re a person prone to making mistakes.
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s simulated reality experience is kind of like the Oculus Rift turned up to eleven. Featuring total immersive virtual reality that looks and feels like the real world, it could be used for training personnel or, more entertainingly, for staging all manner of wacky fantasies.
My personal favorite use of the Holodeck came in the Star Trek: TNG episode entitled “A Fistful of Datas,” in which various members of the Enterprise crew become trapped in a 19th-century Wild West adventure with the safety protocols accidentally disabled.
Granted, that one may not be quite so much fun were this to become a reality.
Pixar films are always generous with their Apple product placements. Maybe it's because they're so simple a toy can use them, which is exactly what happens in Toy Story 3 when Woody uses Bonnie's Mac to Google directions back to Andy's house.
You've Got Mail
Meg Ryan's PowerBook was such a crucial plot point in You've Got Mail that it was visible for nearly four minutes of the 119-minute-long romantic comedy. The other 115 minutes might have been filled with a repeating loop of the AOL chime for all we know.
Phil Dunphy’s love of the Apple has been a reoccuring theme on Modern Family, but the best episode of all was when Steve Jobs and Jesus conspired to have the launch of the iPad fall on his birthday.
A Mac saves the world from imminent alien annihilation in Independence Day. His holiness Steve Jobs couldn't have written a better plot to glorify his creation's powers than Jeff Goldblum’s brilliant intergalactic hackery, powered by a PowerBook 5300.
In the terrorist-soaked world of Jack Bauer’s 24, the war of Mac versus PC is almost literal. The Washington Post notes that all the good guys on the show use Macs and the baddies are stuck on PCs, but some of the heroes eventually adopted HPs later in the series.
Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy have had an iFest on NBC’s 30 Rock, with one episode's plot using Find My iPhone to locate Liz's lost device, while Alex Baldwin is always showing people pictures on his iPhone.
Friends With Benefits
I imagine Justin Timberlake's charms usually circumvent the necessity to swear an oath of unholy platonic sex with right hand on an iPad Bible app, but in Friends with Benefits, Mila Kunis swings him into it. But it was just a fake bible so it was totally cool to break the promise later.
The Big Bang Theory
The physics geeks of The Big Bang Theory have been spotted using MacBooks from time to time but the love affair started in the first season when roommates Leonard and Sheldon were playing a MMORPG with friends. Though all the computers are covered with stickers, it looks like the only Mac user at the time was university researcher Raj.
House of Cards
What does the most conniving, vengeful man in Washington, D.C., use to run his quest for political domination? Apple, of course. And it's not just Francis Underwood. Reporter Kloe Barnes is also spotted throughout House of Cards getting scoops from her iPhone, even as death comes barreling through the subway.
Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw introduced millions of women to the coolness of Macs, thanks to the trusty PowerBook G3 she used to write her weekly column. It was due to the popularity of Sex and the City that el Jobso may have eventually relented on having the logo flipped around so it'd look right-side up when you see someone using it.
Before every hipster college student was toting a MacBook into the lecture hall, Reese Witherspoon's fashion-obsessed character in Legally Blonde absolutely had to have Jony Ive's unapologetically sherbet iBook in class to match her threads. Apple has ditched the colorful plastic, but MacBooks have only gotten more popular on campus.
Back To The Future
In the opening minutes of 1989’s Back to the Future II, Marty McFly lands in 2015, where hover-cars loom, Jaws 19 in 3D plays in movie theaters and folks sport layered outfits that only a daltonic could love. In an antiques store, Michael J. Fox does a double take over a “vintage” Mac sitting next to other '80s relics like a Dustbuster and a bottle of Perrier.
Men In Black 2
To retrieve vital info from that could save Earth from an intergalactic disaster, Men in Black II’s Will Smith decides to use an illegal deneuralizer. Of course getting his hands on one requires making a deal with Jeebs, whose rickety setup is cobbled together with a food mixer, a house fan and some stolen A/V gear -- all controlled with an iMac G3.
After her cellphone gets stolen by an eagle in The Proposal, Sandra Bullock's character picks up a replacement at the town general store and then goes to the only Internet cafe around to find all of her 37 urgent messages using an iMac G3 connected to civilization via a coin-operated modem.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks look to solve their cash-flow problems in Zack and Miri Make a Porno by making adult films on their clamshell MacBook. The movie also had a part for Justin Long — “Get a Mac” Apple adman — as a gay porno star, leaving at least one person to suggest the actor is an Apple endorsement, too.
In The Office, Dunder Mifflin's computer of choice was Apple for years during the early seasons before HP eventually bought up some promotional rights. Wanting to be the world's coolest boss, Michael Scott bought a video iPod for the White Elephant gift exchange in the Christmas episode, while MacBooks lingered around the conference room and other desks later in the series.
The blissful stupidity of Derek Zoolander and Hansel still gets us stoked for Orange Mocha Frappuccinos and gas station fuel-pump fights, but the male model duo took tech problems to all new heights in Zoolander as they struggled to open the iMac G3 carrying the files to stop Mugatu.
The new host of The Late Show is taking his Apple obsession with him. Stephen Colbert's been spotted pimping Apple products across the country, from toting iPads at the Grammys to posting selfies with the great Dave Letterman himself.
Hollywood loves Apple almost as much as it loves itself.
The passionate affair burned for decades before Samsung came snapping celebrity selfies with Ellen at the Oscars and dishing out enough paid endorsements to finance the next Star Wars trilogy.
Apple plans to fight back with its own buzz marketer in New York to keep its products in the hands of the elite and glamorous. But Cupertino has never had a problem getting its products on the big screen and into the coolest TV shows — even though Apple swears it doesn’t pay a dime for product placements. Here are 18 of the most iconic Apple cameos to hit the screen.
iMessage, Facetime, Siri… what will Apple’s next innovation be? This video humorously speculates that for the iPhone 6, Apple might take a page from Emmett Brown’s book with the iFlux Capacitor, an app that will allow any car to travel back in time, take photos in another century, as well as let you send messages to yourself in the past and track the stock market of the future. The English ain’t great, but the humor is.
Telltale is expected to bring The Walking Dead to iOS in April.
Telltale Games, the studio behind popular iOS games like Back to the Futureand Monkey Island, is developing a new series based on the hit TV show The Walking Dead. If that news alone doesn’t get you excited, then check out this incredible teaser trailer.
While there are countless little-known videos on YouTube that are well worth a watch for any Apple fan, this Ghostbusters parody has to be one of the best. The clip was filmed for an International Sales Meeting held in 1984 and it sees a team called the “Blue Busters” free the world from IBM PCs and replace them with the Macintosh.
Telltale games have created some of my favorite games for the iPad, most notably their recent series of Back to the Future titles. But having finished with Marty McFly, the team have turned their focus to building another iPad adventure inspired by a fantastic film.
The first episode in a series of Jurassic Park games is now available to purchase from the App Store.
I’m a massive fan of the Back to the Future series from Telltale Games, and if you haven’t already tried them for yourself, there’s no better time to start. All five iPad games are now on sale for just $2.99 each.
Illusion Labs – the team behind the hugely successful Touchgrind skateboarding game – have taken everything that made their first hit such a success and used it to create Touchgrind BMX. Put the skateboard to one side and become a BMX pro – performing spectacular tricks in beautifully crafted locations all over the world.
The Heist is currently famous for its overwhelming popularity that has helped it knock Angry Birds off the top spot of the App Store’s paid chart. Featuring a collection of mind-bending puzzles that you must solve in order to get your hands on the valuable prize inside the vault.
Siege Hero boasts gameplay similar to Angry Birds, in that you must destroy a group of enemies protected by glass, rocks and timber. However, instead of taking aim at a group of ugly pigs, vikings are your enemies, and rocks replace the birds as your ammo.
Find out more about the games above and check out the rest of the week’s must-haves – including Back to the Future: Episode 3 and To-Fu: The Trials of Chi – below!
This week’s roundup of must-have iOS games includes the second episode in a series of five Back to the Future games from Telltale – with a brand new story for Marty and Doc.
We’ve also got Real Racing 2 HD – which has just been updated to feature dual-screen gaming, allowing you to connect your iPad to your HDTV and enjoy the ultimate racing game at 1080p.
Final Fantasy III also makes our list of favorites. This 90s classic has been around on the iPhone for a few weeks, but it now features new and improved 3D visuals and story sequences exclusive to the iPad.
Find out more about the games above and check out the rest of this week’s must-have’s – including Bunny the Zombie Slayer and NBA Jam – after the break!