Hollywood’s toys for boys

Movie stars have been using a variety of tech marvels in action-packed blockbusters. But how realistic are the weapons they use?

A reality check

Clone a phone
SIM copier
Bourne Supremacy
There’s a cool scene where Matt Damon knocks down a US agent and takes his mobile in a flash. He then puts the SIM card into a GSM plugin SIM Adapter which is connected to a chip drive. The SIM configuration is downloaded into Damon’s mobile and he starts receiving calls without the US agent knowing.
Reality Meter: 5/5
These devices are in India and they may not be as fast as Damon, but your mobile card can be cloned in minutes! That means someone else can make umpteen calls and you’ll still get billed for it.

Stop a car
2 Fast 2 Furious
What’s the best way to catch a car with a daredevil driver? No you don’t have to overtake him. Just fire the Electrical System Disabler (ESD) and short circuit the car. In 2F2F, cops fire a 3-legged device from a small cannon gun which gets lodged in the body of the car, bringing the voltage down to zero and thereby stopping the car.
Reality Meter: 3/5
An electrical system gives power to, among other things, the ignition system through the car’s wiring. So theoretically it is possible to have such a device.

The impossible weapon
Light Saber
Star Wars series
The light saber is the ultimate weapon. Not only for a Jedi, but it’s the coolest weapon around. It can slice men and robots into two. It can cut through secure doors. The very sight strikes fear in the hearts of all. And it can fit neatly into your pocket.
Reality Meter: 0/5
By today’s technology, such a device would be near-impossible to make. For one, it would be very difficult to contain the length of a laser and secondly, one laser beam won’t stop another laser as they show in the fights. At best you could make a plasma saber, but to contain it in a magnetic field, it would take tonnes of energy.

A virtual me
Hologram projector
Star Wars series
Which Star Wars fan can forget R2D2′s hologram of Princess Leia in the original trilogy? In the seventies it was cool that you could save a moving image of someone and transport it elsewhere. Since then the hologram has been used in many movies.
Reality Meter: 5/5
The Mirage 3D Hologram Maker can make a hologram right in your in your home. It costs £20, check it out at www.optigone.com. Then there’s tele-immersion or live teleconferencing in the form of a hologram.

No mouse, no keyboard
Holographic database
Minority Report
Imagine doing away with the key and mouse and computer screen and replacing it all with a virtual image! Anyone who’s seen the movie will remember Tom Cruise going through a virtual database with nothing but his hands.
Reality Meter: 1/5
While we are still a long way away from such a virtual screen, many computer makers are already working on such a concept.

You don’t remember this
Memory Eraser
Men in Black series
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones at the end of every alien encounter use a pen-sized gadget that erases the memory of those around. Wiping out memory and modifying it has also been the subject of other movies like Total Recall.
Reality Meter: 0/5
While just about anything is possible in the future, right now we are nowhere near wiping out anyone’s “temporary memory” with just a flash.

I can see your underwear
Blue X-Ray Glasses
The World Is Not Enough
So many movies in the past have fantasized about X-ray goggles that can look through clothes and even James Bond couldn’t resist the temptation in the nineties, when Pierce Brosnan uses them to check out the ladies in a casino.
Reality Meter: 3/5
While X-ray technology is getting more and more sophisticated and the latest ones can see outlines inside clothes, they are still nowhere as clear as reel-life would like us to believe. Though scientists are still trying and trying…

Infecting the aliens
Apple PowerBook
Independence Day
Jeff Goldblum used his laptop to infect the alien attack fleet with a virus thereby crippling it and saving Planet Earth. An Apple PowerBook? That’s all you need to ward of aliens with awesome firepower? Cool!
Reality Meter: Unknown
While the Apple PowerBook exists, nobody has seen an alien computer to say conclusively whether it is Mac-compatible or not.

Traffic jam in the sky
Flying cars
Back to the Future series
What’s the best way to avoid traffic jams on Earth? Go upwards! However this movie portrays traffic jams even in the sky, the car population is expected to rise that much! There are also flying cars in The Fifth Element, Judge Dredd, Minority Report etc.
Reality Meter: 2/5
The Moller M400 and SkyCar are two cars that can fly, though they look more like planes. The M200X looked more like a UFO. So the only thing left to work out for a flying car is the “form factor”.

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in October 2005)