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Movie-inspired inventions come to life

Arx Pax | Hendo Hoverboard

When we were kids, we all thought we'd have flying cars and accepted cloning as routine by now. Indeed, 1989's "Back to the Future II" and 2000's "The 6th Day", both set in 2015, predicted exactly those innovations.

This unfortunately (or fortunately) is not the case. But could the power of movie special effects have helped inspire today's technology? We've already seen the invention of the hoverboard and self-tying shoelaces, both of which appeared in "Back to the Future II".

From James Bond's gadgets to the self-driving cars in "Total Recall", CNBC looks at how the movie industry has influenced the technology of 2015.

- By Alexandra Gibbs, special to CNBC.com

Virtual reality
An attendee wears an Oculus Rift HD virtual reality head-mounted display as he plays "EVE: Valkyrie," a multiplayer virtual reality dogfighting shooter game, at the Intel booth at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

"The Matrix" (1999), "Total Recall" (1990) and "Welt am Draht" (World on a Wire)—back in 1973—all envisioned what virtual reality devices might look like.

A few decades on, the commercial release of "Oculus Rift," a simulated reality headset, is widely expected for this year. This follows an online crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that started in September 2012 and has raised $2.4 million so far.

Projects similar to Oculus Rift include Sony's "Project Morpheus" and the University of Southern California's "Project Holodeck."

Source: Oculus campaign on Kickstarter, TechRadar

Self-tying laces
Credit: Nike

Self-tying laces caught the public imagination in "Back to the Future II," and in 2011, Nike sold $6 million's worth of replica versions of the shoes seen in the movie. However, these lacked the actual ability to tie themselves.

In 2014 though, a leading Nike sneaker designer, Tinker Hatfield, told the media the brand would unveil shoes with actual "power laces" this year. In early 2015, Tinker Hatfield confirmed at the Agenda Trade Show, in California, that he and his team would deliver the 'Nike MAG with Power Laces' sometime during 2015.

Plans for two alternative versions have featured on Kickstarter, including Blake Bevin's "Power Laces" and Frederick Labbe and the Powerteam's "Powerlace Advanced auto-lacing shoe technology."

Source: Sole Collector and Nice Kicks

Laser watch
Patrick Priebe | Laser Watch | Laser Gadgets

In three iconic James Bond films – "Never Say Never Again", "Goldeneye" and "Die Another Day" – a laser wristwatch that could incinerate items from meters away was one of the superspy's must-have gadgets.

"Never Say Never Again" in 1983 featured a balloon-zapping Rolex, but it took until November 2014 for somebody to create and advertise such a gizmo online.

The inventor's name: Priebe. Patrick Priebe.

A German inventor, who is fascinated by laser technology and comic book-inspired gadgets, Priebe has also successfully designed his own version of Iron Man's gauntlet and lasers and Spider-Man's web-shooter.

Source: Patrick Priee's 'Laser-Gadgets' website


Driverless cars
Getty Images

"Total Recall" (1990) features self-driving taxis called Johnny Cabs', that are operated by artificial intelligence, while 1993's "Demolition Man" had voice-activated, autonomous cars. Driverless cars also featured in the "Minority Report," "Demolition Man" and "I, Robot."

Fiction was seen becoming reality at the end of last year, Google announced that test trials would commence in the U.K. in January 2015 on the latest prototype of its driverless car.

Designs for autonomous cars date back to the 1920s however. Radio-controlled cars were made in 1926 and during the 1980s, Ernst Dickmanns and Germany's Bunderwehr University created the first "robot car".

Source: AA Cars (Infographic)


Invisibility cloak
J. Adam Fenster | Rochester Cloak Collection | University of Rochester

Featured in both the book and the movie version of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), the young wizard's invisibility cloak was what any kid would've wanted at the time.

In September 2014, the U.S. University of Rochester detailed on its website how scientists were at work on a "Rochester Cloak" that could make objects invisible using lens-based technology and optical illusion. The university has since filed a patent for the cloaking device.

Source: University of Rochester


Motion censored technology
Jose Luis Pelaez | The Image Bank | Getty Images

In "Minority Report" (2002), set in 2054, Tom Cruise's character wowed viewers as he interacted with a touch-sensitive "multi-touch interfaces" computer.

Motion-touch games systems appeared in reality as soon as 2004 with the Nintendo DS, which was followed by the Wii Remote in 2006 and the Microsoft Kinect, which was released on Xbox in 2010.

Videophone communication
Blend Images/Ariel Skelley | Vetta | Getty Images

In Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968), videophone calls were cheap and easy-to-make, taking place in a phone booth wryly named "Picturephone." Later, videophone communication featured in "Back to the Future II" and "Demolition Man."

The video-phone was actually invented sometime prior to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but failed to take off. In 1964, AT&T premiered its own "Picturephone," but the service never truly flourished.

Instead, public communication via video didn't really popular until Skype's internet-based service was launched in 2003. Skype announced mid-2014 that it had 2 million users across the world.

Source: Mashable

Hover-board
Arx Pax | Hendo Hoverboard

We may not have flying cars in 2015 like Back to the Future II predicted, but we are closer to replicating Marty McFly's hoverboard.

In October last year, Hendo Hover launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to help build a real-life hoverboard. If things go to plan, individuals who pledged $10,000 or more to the project will be able to own their very own Hendo Hoverboard at some point in 2015.

The hoverboard uses magnetic field technology and magnetic levitation, discovered by Hendo Hover CEO Greg Henderson.

Source: Hendo Hoverboards on Kickstarter


Genetic modification
Jonatan Fernstrom | Collection Mix: Subjects | Getty Images

Playing God with human life has appeared in movies throughout film history, from the first "Frankenstein" movie in 1910 to "The 6th Day," and "Never Let Me Go" (2010).

Manipulating animal or plant life has also loomed large in the public imagination, particularly with the advent of genetically modified (GM) products, typically crops like tomatoes or corn, which have enhanced ability to repel diseases and insects.

Controversy over genetic modification took a new turn in 2014, when the media discovered a girl born with three genetic parents.

Now a teenager, Alana Saarinen, was created through an IVF procedure called cytoplasmic transfer (now banned in the U.S.) that uses mitochondrial DNA from a third person. Media reports worldwide suggested up to 50 people had three parents like Saarinen.

Laser glasses
Patrick Priebe | Laser Eyes | Laser Gadgets

In the X-men comic book saga, mutant-superhero Cyclops is recognizable for the "optic blasts" (laser beams) he emits from his eyes and the protective eyewear he wears to control it. The first X-men movie made into the big screen in 2000 and six sequels have followed.

Fourteen years on, while no mutant has been discovered, Patrick Priebe (see slide three) has created eyewear or "laser eyes" which he describes as "burning stuff with vision".

Priebe has also created his own electromagnetic version of the metallic retractable "Wolverine Claws" featured in X-men.

Source: Patrick Priee's 'Laser-Gadgets' website and YouTube page.


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