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Science on the Screen: Minority Report’s Predictions Became Reality

Science on the Screen: Minority Report’s Predictions Became Reality

Some of the sci-fi predictions from 'Minority Report' come to life.

In the summer of 2002 Tom Cruise starred in “Minority Report”, a film (based on the Novel by Phillip K. Dick) about a futuristic era where police have a long list of crime fighting advances that seemed amazingly futuristic if not impossible at the time.  Computers that can be manipulated just by waving your hand in the air, insect-robots that can invade a house and find someone quickly, iris recognition to identify (and then bombard you with ads) an individual, the list goes on and on. 10 years after the debates as to whether or not Minority Report could come true, much of the technology is already here or in the advanced stages of development. And beyond the technology, there’s another aspect to futuristic crime fighting that isn’t as far fetched as it may have seemed in the film – crime prediction.

First the technology. Tom Cruise wasn’t the first to wave his hands around and drag files from one place to another. Several years later Robert Downy Jr playing Tony Stark in Iron Man would bring it even further into fashion with his fictional omnipresent super computer Jarvis.  For the average non-on-screen civilian, we’ve been playing with xbox kinect, a system that lets you manipulate the game screen through gestures, for several years now.

Robotic insects

Crime fighting in Minority Report also involves the use of robotic insects, who slip into a building in swarms in search of the culprit.  In reality, insect-robots have been in development for a few years now by military contractors like BAE.  Their plan is to build a six legged robot that is small and able to go into a risky situation or building ahead of humans and neutralize or detect the threat.

Eye scan

Of course there is also the retinal scan, probably the least difficult to imagine development from the film.  If you’ve ever flown through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport you’ve probably seen a retinal scan security system used by certain pre-screened passengers and staff.  Border check points in some wealthier countries are also making use of retinal scans.  The difference from Minority Report is that in the film your retina can be scanned while you are on the move, in real life cameras are getting better and better at focusing on specific parts of an image so that improvement is already within reach.

Predicting crimes

Now for the crazier sounding part of the film, predicting crime before it happens. In the film, the police make use of pre-cogs, people who can predict a crime before it happens. In real life we don’t have these people locked in a basement foreseeing crimes, but we do have researchers that can tell much about the chances of a crime occurring based on patterns of movement and environment. In the UK, where CCTV became famous, University of Leeds researcher Nick Malleson has built a system that can predict the likelihood that a house will be robbed.

So was Minority Report just a bunch of futuristic junk that has no bearing on reality? Hardly. In 2012 we understand more than you might realize about “John Anderton’s” style of law enforcement.

Source: The Guardian

Image via Rafaelgrossman.com

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