Science fiction book-turned-movie "Minority Report" follows a police officer caught in the middle of a complicated case as he runs through a world littered with the imagined technologies of 2054. But a remarkable number of futures imagined in the 2002 film are actually happening today -- 40 years early.
No, there aren't any psychics involved, but we can still make good guesses about where and when crimes will take place, confirm identities by way of scanning retinas, or even take off from the road in a flying car.
Predicting Crime Before It Happens
This is the main plot device of the movie. "Minority Report" makes use of psychic "precogs" who identify when and where a crime will take place before it actually does. In the film, this ability to divine the future hinges upon ill-defined psychic capability, but law enforcement agencies in the real world today are using good old-fashioned mathematics to accomplish the same thing.
Police in Berlin are already testing a system called "Precobs," which derives its name from "precrime observation system" as a nod to the 2002 movie. As new incidents are reported, the Precobs software analyzes data that might help suggest future targets. It's already gotten a bit of a nod from interior minister Joachim Herrmann, who pegs test results on a string of robberies in Munich and Nuremberg as "promising." There is controversy surrounding the potential use of personal information in the future to build out this system's capabilities, but London's police department has experimented with a system that considers a person's criminal history and social media posts in order to weigh how likely it is that a person may commit a crime down the road.
Cars That Fly
The perennial science fiction promise of flying car is here, even if it's not ready for consumers yet. Massachusetts-based Terrafugia makes a "roadable airplane" called the Transition, that switches between flying and driving modes in less than 60 seconds. It's street legal, it runs on gasoline, it has a flight range of almost 500 miles and can drive 805 miles. The Transition carries one pilot and one passenger.
Huge Touchscreen Interfaces
Some might recall Microsoft's first "Surface" product -- it wasn't the iPad tablet challenger of the same name, but instead a huge touchscreen interface more comparable to a table. "Minority Report" showed us similar interfaces, mostly minimal and transparent as Tom Cruise interacts with them via touch to work cases.
Debuting in 2007, this Surface sold itself as offering "NUI," or natural user interface. The original oversized Surface presented "a natural way for people to interact with digital content using their hands. "Users can control information with the flick of a hand," Microsoft's Mike Bolger said upon the device's unveiling.
It would unfortunately turn out that this Surface was more of a demonstration of what Microsoft could do technologically rather than a consumer or business product that would end up being for sale. It's effectively a huge, immobile tablet.
Just as we all have unique fingerprints and DNA, our retinas can be used as another way to mark identity. Hector Hoyos, founder of Rainmakers Global, is the main name attached to these devices -- his retinal scanners are smaller and more affordable than those made by major brand-name companies such as Panasonic's $10,000 take on such a device. Hoyos' machines, on the other hand, can lock in on someone's eyes from a foot away and only cost $50. He predicts their being installed in offices and banks around the world, anywhere that might require a powerful and affordable means to confirm identity.
Below is a scene from the movie that combines the aforementioned retina scans with personalized advertising.
Current takes at making this happen rely on RFID chips and iBeacons that tell advertisers who you are, your interests, how much money you spend and so on. Advertisers are keen to adopt such a technology as a means of saving money on poorly targeted ads, and if they know exactly what you want, they stand to make more money by convincing you to buy it more easily.
A major technology in the movie that doesn't yet exist in the real world really more closely approaches magic than tech -- it's telepathy, the ability to communicate by thought and see into the future. While we certainly can't do this with our own minds, some basic experiments have been able to transmit thoughts from one individual to another by means of technology. The most forward-thinking of us might suggest that this will take us to a time when verbal communication goes extinct. Why bother speaking when we might one day be able to communicate at the speed of thought over the Internet to anyone in the world?
Now that sounds like science fiction.