Where's my hoverboard? And other movie tech we want now

There are plenty of cool gadgets in real life, but imagine if technology in films could be made. Here's a list of some of the movie technology we'd love to see manufactured in the near future



Lightsaber from Star Wars
Knife, torch, wound cauteriser, soup warmer, skeleton key, cigarette lighter -- the lightsaber is the coolest and most versatile gadget of all time. You know you want one.

Where the hell is it?
According to the official Star Wars databank, "at the press of a button the energy contained within is liberated and forms as a shaft of pure energy about a meter long". Containing large amounts of energy in a free-standing shaft that can cut through metal would be rather tricky. So far, the closest anyone has got to anything that resembles a lightsaber are high-powered industrial and surgical lasers, which are still very cool. It's just stopping the beam so that it's a finite blade that's the problem.

I want one now!
The closest you'll get to a lightsaber today is a plastic one from Argos. It makes the noise, that's what counts. Or if you've got a Nokia N95 you could always download the lightsaber app, which works using the phone's accelerometer and makes a satisfying noise when you swoosh the handset around.



Star Trek Transporter
We've all been there. You wake up and realise you're an hour late for work, so what do you do? If the Star Trek transporter existed, you'd simply press a button and hey presto -- you're at the office without even breaking a sweat.

Where the hell is it?
Breaking a human being's molecules down and teleporting them through space or assembling them from scratch at the other end is unlikely to ever happen. While there are many hypothetical theories, including 'fax' style copying of molecules and wormholes, the only thing that scientists have been able to 'transport' so far is light and single atoms.

I want one now!
The only reason that the Enterprise had a transporter room was because it was cheaper to use than filming the ship landing. So the closest you'll ever get to one, unfortunately, is an easyJet flight.



Hoverboard in Back to The Future Part II
Watching Michael J Fox ride a hoverboard in Back to The Future Part II inspired a whole generation. It's 'supposed' to come to market in 2015 and we sincerely hope it does, because the Segway just doesn't do it for us.

Where the hell is it?
The Mattel-branded hoverboard replaced wheels either with fans, which couldn't be powerful enough to hold up a person, or some kind of battery-powered magnet to repel the Earth, which would need too much energy. In spite of an incredibly persistent urban myth (fuelled by director Robert Zemeckis), gravity cannot be defied so easily.

I want one now!
Impressively, single-person hoverboards exist in the form of the Arbortech Airboard and Future Horizon hoverboards that work like personal hovercraft. Okay, it's not exactly the same as Michael J Fox's board, but it will let you float about on the street.



Instant knowledge in the Matrix
We don't want machines to enslave humanity (well, not often), but we wouldn't mind the ability to plug ourselves into a computer and receive instant knowledge. Kung fu, world history, a really good recipe for saag aloo -- just pick a subject and master it in seconds.

Where the hell is it?
The human brain remembers and processes information in a completely different way to computers, and is generally far too delicate and complex to be manipulated in such a way. It meshes all its information together in a massive analogue, chemical soup, in a way we don't yet fully understand.

More practically, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle have developed a prototype contact lens that incorporates an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. In the future you might be able to buy contact lenses with built-in screens that let you browse the Net while you walk about, which would be tantamount to acquiring instant knowledge.

I want one now!
Many argue that you can learn practically everything off the Net, and while it's not exactly Matrix-style, you can find out a great deal with the click of a button -- some of it even true. But right now you'll have to put up with using the Web browser on your mobile -- it's not quite kung fu, but it will help you in a pub quiz.



Bill & Ted's time-travelling phone booth
Bored with modern day life? Why not hop into a time machine and transport yourself to another era? Dodge dinosaurs in the morning, then surf the Circuits of Time into the future to check out the iPhone nano -- after a spot of lunch in Renaissance Rome.

Where the hell is it?
The concept of time travel is widely used in films and literature, but is considered impossible by modern science. According to Einstein's theory of relativity you'd need to travel faster than the speed of light in order to travel through time, but nothing with a mass can do that.

I want one now!
If you've got an urgent hankering to relive your past, however, you can always put on your old school uniform and head down to a School Disco. After several drinks you might even believe you've travelled back in time. If you're too young to buy alcohol, museums are brilliant.



Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
As long as it doesn't go all Terminator, robot servants would be very handy. Twiki isn't a particularly high-end model, but he's always finding things to do and he's a rather friendly little chap.

Where the hell is it?
Humanoid robots exist and they're not a million years from becoming your very own Twiki. Take Asimo , for example. Honda's robot can walks very much like a person and can even carry a tray. This technology has yet to hit the mainstream, but we don't think it'll be too long before robots are looking after you when you're old or doing important, dangerous jobs, such as reviewing technology.

I want one now!
Unless you can fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy yourself an Asimo, you're going to have to settle for a much smaller, frankly less inspiring array of robots on the high street, including the Lego Mindstorm and the somewhat Popeye-looking Robosapien -- just don't expect them to make your tea.



Minority Report's interactive display
No more keyboards or touchscreens, just your fingers, the air and a lot of pretty pictures. There are a few working prototypes of this kind of technology out there, but we want it right now.

Where the hell is it?
A very clever research scientist for New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Jeff Han, presented a multi-touch interface at a TED conference in 2006 that could easily evolve into a Minority Report-style interface. All it would need to take it that step further is a touchless input technology. 

I want one now!
A mere £179 will buy you a Wii. Microsoft has that stupid table thing, but it'll be a while before you can buy one, apparently. Or you could opt for the HP TouchSmart IQ770 desktop computer, which comes with a large touchscreen that can be swivelled about depending on the angle you want it at. You still have to touch the screen, unfortunately -- waving your hands around it will just make you look silly.



Flying cars from the Fifth Element
With a vast number of cars hitting our roads each year, we need a way to avoid traffic. Flying cars would certainly get us to work quicker than the Northern line.

Where the hell is it?
Quite apart from the frightening prospect of letting the general public fly tonnes of metal around, it takes a huge amount of energy to get us lardy human beings airborne. The fuel bill, and environmental impact, of widespread personal air travel would be astronomical.

I want one now!
A fantastically crazy company called Moller International has come up with a fully working flying car, called the M400 Skycar. The M400 is equipped to hover or fly through the air, enabling it to be used in urban environments. We're not sure how legal it is in the UK, but if you fancy buying one, you can put down a deposit now. The US, with its 5,000 local and regional airports, is a more likely place to have a network of 'microjet' air taxis.



Robocop
With all the paperwork and red tape, the police could use a little help -- and what better help than a super-human policeman, half man, half machine? Policemen are already carrying webcams, so this is the logical next step, right?

Where the hell is it?
In terms of mean cyborg fighting machines, there are robotic defence systems and super strong exoskeletons that are almost as scary as Peter Weller. Those crazy cats at Darpa are working hard on Luke Skywalker-style prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the wearer's mind.

I want one now!
Cyborgs are all around us. Medical technology has advanced to the extent that many people have technology inside or on their bodies to help them get on with their everyday lives, such as pacemakers or hearing aids. No leg compartments with concealed automatic pistols yet, though.



Light cycles in Tron
If we had to give up all of the other movie-based gadgets so that only one could be made, it would be the light cycles in Tron. It's incredible that this film was made in 1982 -- watching this clip now still gets our blood rushing.

Where the hell is it?
Fully immersive gaming environments don't exist in the Tron sense, but software and hardware is getting very close to being able to offer it.

I want one now!
If you took Second Life, tweaked Johnny Chung Lee's head-tracking technology and got yourself a vibrating gaming chair you could just about get all Tron-ed up. If wearing headgear isn't your thing though, Alienware's massive curved display will have you thinking you're inside the game without a funny pair of glasses in sight.

 

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