The ten sci-fi movie inventions we wish were real

If sci-fi films are telling the truth, the tech of tomorrow looks set to be pretty special. Here’s what we’re sticking top of our Christmas list

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It’s become something of a cliché to hear people moaning about the gulf between science fiction and science fact. It’s the twenty-first century, they cry, and we still don’t live on the moon, most of us aren’t subsisting on a diet of mysterious soya proteins, and we can’t jetpack to work. We have to make do with smartphones, the internet and not dying of polio. Boo-hoo.

But, while we’re not expecting to be able to take a holiday on Mars any time soon, there are a few sci-fi inventions that we reckon would create an immediate and lasting improvement in our lives. So if you’ve ever wondered what your dog was thinking or felt the need for a little hands-free pleasure, read on…

  • The translation collar in ‘Up’ (2009)

    What is it?
    A collar that translates the thoughts of man’s best friend into speech – and also makes our canine chums (marginally) more intelligent. Squirrel!

    How could it change our lives?
    You could explain to your dog how toilets work. No more poop and scoop.

    What are the chances?
    Go online and it feels like this has already happened – for all kinds of animals. Who mainly seem to covet cheezburgers. Much technology. Very future. So internet.

    Read more

  • The Orgasmatron in ‘Sleeper’ (1973)

    What is it?
    A small chamber whose electromagnetic wotsits induce powerful orgasms.

    How could it change our lives?
    One of the reasons Netflix is so popular is the lack of effort involved in bingeing on non-stop entertainment. The Orgasmatron could do for self-abuse what they’ve done for home viewing.

    What are the chances?
    This one actually already exists, kind of – it was discovered as a side effect of a spinal cord stimulator. The downside is it costs about $3,000 and involves the surgical insertion of electrodes into the spine. Hmm. Maybe we’ll stick with RedTube.

    ‘Sleeper’ is number 64 in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies

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  • The electromagnetic shrink ray in ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’ (1989)

    What is it?
    A device that can shrink anyone down to bitesize/Borrower/Bercow dimensions.

    How could it change our lives?
    We could make millions in the dodgy weight loss industry. Instantly lose ten stone with this one weird trick that has angered scientists!

    What are the chances?
    Unlikely. In the film, the ray is said to remove the space within atoms – which, in tediously real-world terms, means a five-inch person would still have the same weight as a fully grown one, and would be instantly and rather gruesomely squashed flat by the earth’s gravity. Sorry kids!

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  • The DeLorean in ‘Back to the Future’ (1985)

    What is it?
    A car that can travel through time when it hits 88 miles per hour.

    How could it change our lives?
    Who wouldn’t love to have the power to go back in time and play sexually confusing Freudian mind games with their parents?

    What are the chances?
    Scientists have already mastered the DeLorean part; there’s only the time travel element left to crack. We’re 50 percent there.

    ‘Back to the Future’ is number 21 in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies

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  • The Alzheimer’s cure from ‘Deep Blue Sea’ (1999)

    What is it?
    Cures Alzheimer’s by exponentially increasing the brain power of sharks. Lovely, giant, man-eating sharks.

    How could it change our lives?
    It would change our lives only for the better, by helping people suffering from a terrible disease. There is absolutely no way this could go wrong. Everything will be fine. Guaranteed.

    What are the chances?
    Poor – for some reason, those pencil pushers up at city hall are trying to block our research grant.

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  • The telepathic justice system in ‘Minority Report’ (2002)

    What is it?
    Using genetically mutated humans with precognitive abilities to fight crime before it has been crimed.

    How could it change our lives?
    In the film there only seem to be three ‘pre-cogs’, and they’re presumably pretty busy sensing murders, terrorist acts and suchlike. The petty criminality that most of us enjoy is unlikely to be affected. However, the implications for insurance premiums are far-reaching.

    What are the chances?
    Insurance companies arguably already practice this, using little grey men with minds full of statistics rather than bald mutants in bathtubs.

    ‘Minority Report’ is number 88 in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies

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  • HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

    What is it?
    In theory, a hyper-intelligent super computer. In practice, like a non-corporeal robot butler with one red eye and a prickly attitude.

    How could it change our lives?
    It may change our lives by ending them suddenly in our sleep. But hey, we need never open a pod bay door for ourselves again.

    What are the chances?
    This is going to happen. Siri was only the first step, and it surely won’t be long before we arrive home every night to a cheery ‘good evening’ from a psychotic machine that means us harm and controls every aspect of our lives.

    ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is number one in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies

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  • The Telepods from ‘The Fly’ (1986)

    What is it?
    Primarily, a matter transporter. Beta functionality includes interspecies DNA fusion, genetic decay, insanity and gruesome death.

    How could it change our lives?
    It could get us from place to place super quickly, with the added bonus of a total genetic reboot at the other end. And hey, you don’t have to become part fly. You could become part cat, part eagle, part cockroach (which would be useful in the event of nuclear apocalypse).

    What are the chances?
    Relax, the Brundlefly has everything under control – the programme just needs a few bug fixes.

    ‘The Fly’ is number 19 in our list of the 100 best sci-fi movies

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  • The virtual makeover machine in ‘Virtual Sexuality’ (1999)

    What is it?
    It’s supposed to create a 3D image of your ideal partner. Instead, thanks to a freak accident, it turns hapless 17-year-old girl Justine into her own perfect man.

    How could it change our lives?
    There’s barely a person alive who couldn’t benefit from spending a day in the shoes of the object of their desire.

    What are the chances?
    We’re already halfway there – any of us can create a social media profile persona for the person we’d really like to be, and live vicariously through them. It can get you into trouble, though…

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  • The massive robot spider from ‘Wild Wild West’ (1999)

    What is it?
    A massive robot spider.

    How could it change our lives?
    For the owner of the spider, it’s world-conquering time. For the rest of the world, get ready to bow down to your new steampunk arachnid overlord.

    What are the chances?
    Science has made robot spiders (tarantulas no less) already. Who knows, one might have escaped from that science lab just down the road. You know, the one in the industrial park with those creepy guys in lab coats. But it’ll be fine. Sweet dreams!

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The translation collar in ‘Up’ (2009)

What is it?
A collar that translates the thoughts of man’s best friend into speech – and also makes our canine chums (marginally) more intelligent. Squirrel!

How could it change our lives?
You could explain to your dog how toilets work. No more poop and scoop.

What are the chances?
Go online and it feels like this has already happened – for all kinds of animals. Who mainly seem to covet cheezburgers. Much technology. Very future. So internet.

Read more

Take a closer look at the world of sci-fi...

The 100 best sci-fi movies

This is a golden age of science fiction cinema. But how did we get here? How did this hugely popular but critically frowned-upon genre go from cardboard spaceships on strings at the local drive-in to the world-conquering pinnacle of blockbuster success? To find out, we created ‘The 100 best sci-fi movies’, a definitive look at the genre from the silent spectacle of 1927’s ‘Metropolis’ to the emotional intimacy of 2013’s ‘Her’.

See the 100 best sci-fi movies

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The 100 best sci-fi movies

Check out our epic celebration of sci-fi on screen, from established masterpieces to small-scale oddities. We hope it’ll serve not just as a fun read for film fans, but as inspiration for future directors, writers and perhaps even budding scientists.

See the 100 best sci-fi movies