Unsurprisingly, video technology crops up in films and TV shows a lot in various forms. Some turn out to be accurate predictions of future tech, while others miss the mark or are simply ridiculous. Here, we take a look at some of our favourite examples...
The much-derided 'enhance' feature
We've all seen it, and we've all cringed at it; the lead character yells 'pause!', then 'enhance!' and all of a sudden the police drama you're watching goes all sci-fi, with technology that can magically zoom in on an image from a CCTV camera, despite the fact that the image is already shown at full resolution. But is it really impossible to turn a blurry image into something clearer? Actually, this technology might not be as far as you think from being a staple in every police force's armoury. Researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have created EnhanceNet, which uses 'automated texture synthesis' to generate clear images from blurry or pixelated photos.
CSI takes 'enhance' to gloriously preposterous levels:
Video calling predicted before its time
Skype was seen as revolutionary when it first made video calling possible for anyone with a computer and a decent internet connection back in 2003, but these days you can make video calls on your phone, your web browser, and even Facebook. As it happens, the concept had been put forward as early as the late 1800s by scientists like Edison and Bell and writer Jules Verne. Although it's not all that long ago that it simply wasn't an option to see a visual of the person you were calling, it must have been a pretty obvious idea even then because there are droves of movies featuring the technology long before it became an IRL possibility.
2001: A Space Odyssey features video calling in 1968:
Thermal imaging is not a new technology, but as the BBC showed this year, it can still be used in inventive ways. For Planet Earth 2, the team used heat-sensitive cameras to watch leopards around Mumbai at night, finding out about their habits and using this new knowledge to capture rare shots of these elusive creatures – shots that would have been impossible to get hold of without the technology. Heat-sensitive cameras were also used in the making of Predator, which is featured in the clip below. If you ever see a film where investigators use these cameras to see what people are doing on the other side of a wall though, sadly that remains firmly in the land of fiction, as it's not scientifically possible (think about it – walls are designed to insulate!)
Predator shows off its heat-seeking vision:
Targeted video ads
Minority Report features some pretty impressive technological predictions, from self-driving cars to the gesture-based computer that the main character John Anderton uses to view and manipulate 'PreCrime' videos, with images projected onto an interactive screen in front of him. Watching videos of crimes before they've even happened isn't the only video tech featured in the movie though – it also features the slightly scary prospect of modules that can identify passers-by by scanning their retinas and then display relevant 3D videos ads to them. While that kind of targeting is commonplace on Google and Facebook these days, back in 2002 this was quite a revolutionary concept.
Ads bug John Anderton in Minority Report:
Hawk-Eye revolutionises sports
Since the advent of Hawk-Eye, which uses several high-performance video cameras and computers to track and predict the movement of a ball, the sports where it's used have never been the same. Helping umpires and referees make decisions about LBW, goals, and which side of the line a tennis ball landed on, Hawk-Eye has removed much of the ambiguity that has seen so many teams suffer the heartache of losing matches they should have won because the adjudicators were only human. It has also provided much entertainment for TV audiences at homes around the world, giving a visual computer-generated representation of its decisions.
Hawk-Eye catches a tennis umpire out twice in one match:
Hologram messaging in Star Wars
The sequence in Star Wars where Princess Leia records a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi is probably one of the film's most famous scenes. While we may not be able to record and view holographic images with our mobile phones (just yet!), hologram technology does exist; a great example can be seen in this video (WARNING: keep the volume down if playing in the office, lots of swearing!) from Coachella 2012, where Tupac appeared posthumously on stage in holographic form alongside Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.
Obi-Wan and Luke watch Princess Leia's message:
A lot of the tech featured here, much of which is commonplace nowadays, was unthinkable when it was first seen on the silver screen. While Plotto's video survey platform now seems like an obvious solution for market researchers, the technology that enables it wasn't available even just a few years ago, highlighting the rapid rate of technological change. What's coming next? The possibilities are endless...