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  • Annika Santhanam

The Science Behind the Movie "Minority Report"

Technology from Movies to Reality: Minority Report

The movie Minority Report is a dystopian film set in the not-too-distant 2054. In the film, the entire Washington DC PreCrime unit runs on a system based off of three mutated humans called Precogs. The Precogs are able to predict murders before they happen, giving a date, place, and time, allowing the police to get to the scene of the murder and stop it from happening. A big problem occurs, however, when the Precogs show the head police officer, John Anderton (played by Tom cruise), killing a man. The officer then goes on a mission to prove himself innocent by proving that the Precogs often predict an alternative ending, called a Minority Report. He hopes the discovery of this prediction’s Minority Report can help clear his name. Throughout the movie, many amazing pieces of technology are used. Let’s see the science behind them and how they’re actually used today.

Driverless Cars

In the movie, driverless cars are everywhere in Anderton’s society. The cars are domed vehicles that can literally travel in all directions, even upside down. Anderton often catches a ride in (and on) these vehicles when he’s running from the rest of the police. This technological advancement is all over the news today. Tesla, Google, and many other countries across the world have been working on and building self-driving cars, though not all attempts have been successful. Just this month, a company called Waymo that emerged from Google’s driverless car endeavor, started a self-driving car service in Phoenix. Smaller startups are also making profit on driverless car services. Even Lyft and Uber are diving into this field and working to have a business without human drivers. And of course, huge tech companies like IBM, Intel, and Apple are all starting to dabble in the driverless car era. As technology advances, driverless cars will certainly become a norm in transportation, but might cause the disappearance of a lot of other things, such as drive-thrus, gas stations, truckers, and taxi drivers. This era of driverless cars sure seems inevitable. Who knows? We might just see a Minority Report-like transportation system by 2054.

Personalized Advertisements

As Anderton walks through a mall, the optical scanners around him scan his eyes and automatically access his profile and his name. By doing this, the ads start saying personalized messages to him. “Get away, John Anderton. Forget your troubles,” says one advertisement that’s advertising a vacation spot. It also kind of senses how he’s feeling, since most of the ads that pop up at him are giving him ways to de-stress (he is running from the police, after all). This is actually a really cool piece of technology. We’re pretty far off from the kinds of personalized ads in the movie, but IBM and Japanese Company NEC are both working n developing personalized billboards. The most recent kind of personalized advertisement can be viewed on Twitter and Channel 4’s streaming service. The movie Alien: Covenant used both platforms to deliver a creepy and personalized message to the viewer. It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to horror movie trailers, the biggest attention grabber is hearing your own name come from the advertisement itself.

Voice Controlled Homes

John Anderton uses certain devices to control his home. He announces to his house that he’s home, and the entire house springs to life. He also uses a simple voice command to turn on the wall screen in his home. Now this piece of technology is something that is impossible to look over today. In millions of households, devices like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Alexa devices are used to control aspects of homes. They can play music, place video calls, turn the lights on and off, change the temperature, and lock doors. Even certain apps on your phone can be used to lock and unlock doors in your house, turn on the alarm, or see what’s going on inside your house through security cameras. The use of this technology today is almost an exact replica of how it is in Minority Report, with the ability to control your house with a few simple voice commands. It won’t be a surprise today as more and more homes become completely technology controlled.

Gesture-Based Computing

John is able to pull up pictures, articles, videos, and profiles on his computer with a few simple swipes of his fingers through the air. He’s able to rewind and fast-forward the videos of the murders created by the Precogs. It might seem that this kind of computing isn’t realistic with today’s technology, but in reality, there are many different inventions that are coming close to this type of computing. Multi-touch interfaces have been created by companies like Intel, MIT, Microsoft, and Obscura Digital. In fact, the most common use of gesture-based computing is used in the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One using Kinect technology. If you’ve ever played Just Dance, then you’ve dabbled in gesture-based computing. The Kinect console tracks your movements and logs them in, so when you do a dance move, it can mark it as correct, or if you drag your hand to select a different song, your movements will be recorded. With this technology already out there, there is a definite possibility that we might have a high-level version of gesture-based computing in the near future.

Optical Recognition

The entire security system portrayed in Minority Report is based solely on identification through eyeball scanning. Lasers scan the eyes of every person and match it to a profile in a database, ensuring that no criminals walk around town freely. This piece of technology sure seems like a long jump from society today. But turns out, this might not be too far in the future. Scientists have recently created a brand-new, breakthrough laser technology. They’ve come up with a new way to create an ultra-thin laser that is less than 1/1000th of a millimeter thick. Therefore, these lasers act like a sticker – they’re flexible and can be put onto almost any object. The researchers had to test the wearability of the membrane to see if it would be compatible with a human eye, so they used an eye that was close to a human’s – a cow’s eye. The scientists attached the membranes to regular contact lenses then slipped those lenses on to the cow’s eye. The lenses were then exposed to pulsed blue light (the light that comes off of electronic devices), and it was noted that “a well-defined laser beam” emerging from the eyeballs. Scientists say that these membranes can be used as wearable ID sensors on the eyes, as shown in Minority Report, and they’re even flexible enough to be used as security tags on documents or banknotes. As technology advances, you might just see these types of sensor on almost everything to maintain security.

So there you have it! Many of the pieces of technology in Minority Report already exist today, and without a doubt, they will develop even further in the future.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more articles!


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