Times are changing and Hollywood sci-fi dreams are becoming a technological reality. Stephen Cauchi finds out which big screen fantasies are now fact.
RobotsStar Wars robots with human-like intelligence are still in the realm of fantasy, but there are some pretty good imitations around. Honda's ASIMO robot, which looks like a small astronaut, has a host of humanlike behaviours including responding to a handshake or wave, answering questions, facing people when spoken to, and avoiding hazards while walking.
Another favourite is the TOPIO 3.0 robot, the pick of the bunch at this year's Automatica Trade Fair in Munich, Germany, according to trade journal Technology and Industry News.
Produced by Vietnamese firm TOSY, TOPIO, which stands 1.88 metres tall and weighs 120 kilograms, is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to play table tennis. Its high-speed cameras allow it to calculate a shot after the ball has travelled just 20 centimetres from an opponent's paddle. A squat, three-wheeled version, TOPIO DIO, is designed to serve drinks. DIO - which stands at 1.25 metres, weighs 45 kilograms and can be controlled via wireless internet - can also be used by rescue services, police or the army to perform dangerous work.
Minority Report/XBoxIn the 2002 blockbuster Minority Report, Tom Cruise navigates through the enormous computer screens of the future by gesturing his hands through the air.
The Kinect sensor of the latest Microsoft XBox console works the same way. A camera sensor plugs into the console, reads the human body and creates an avatar, or computer image, of the user. The user moves, and the avatar on screen follows suit.
Players can become part of a computer game in a way never possible with a handset.
Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have gone further, inventing the DepthJS and the Hand Detector. These allow the Kinect to recognise hand and finger motions, allowing users to surf the internet and ''handle'' computer files. And, unlike Tom Cruise's character in Minority Report, no gloves are required.
Star Wars hologram''Help me Obi-wan, you're my only hope.'' This was how Princess Leia was introduced to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, via a hologram projected by that nimble little robot R2D2. In November, a team led by Nasser Peyghambarian, of the University of Arizona, announced they had developed a holographic system that could record a moving 3D image of a person or object in one place and display it at another location in close to real time.
Professor Peyghambarian told The Age at the time that the 3D image, although slow, was about the same size as R2D2's image. ''We have demonstrated it can be done. It is no longer something that is science-fiction.''
In the system developed by the team, 16 cameras took pictures of the subject from a variety of angles, sending the images via internet to a laboratory where lasers produced a coloured 3D image of the subject on a 25-centimetre photorefractive polymer screen.
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