It struck me the other day, as I was watching a PBS documentary, how much of the technology that is glamorized in movies is part of our everyday life. The three technologies listed below are by no means the only ones but, because we see them glamorized so often, they seem almost emblematic.
You have probably seen them in Star Wars lightsabers or cutting through metal in James Bond films. And now, if you’re a realtor or a contractor, you can get a laser dimension master that will use a laser to measure distance and volume. Now, I grant you that a measuring tool is not quite as glamorous as a lightsaber but it does have a few advantages. You stick it in your pocket and not on a really unfashionable belt; it’s a bit more practical (unless you run into a Sith Lord—in which case definitely get the light saber); and you measure useful stuff with it as opposed to destroying useful stuff with it.
Remember how in Ocean’s Eleven one of the guys danced through a room filled with motion-detecting lasers? And yes, that did look pretty cool. It looks remarkably less cool when you stick a light-switch that uses motion sensor technology in your living room. If you do so to save on electricity bills, the whole thing is downright boring. On the plus side, you don’t have to be an acrobat when using motion sensors in your home. And for me that’s a definite plus.
Thermal imaging in real life is not quite as cool as thermal imaging in (say) a Route 94 video. It is, however, a bit more practical. A thermal imaging camera you plug into your smart phone can tell you where heat is leaking out of your house or apartment and where the damp spots are. Which is all quite useful if not quite trending video material.
We take all this (and much more) completely for granted in our everyday life even as we gasp in awe at the way this technology is portrayed in a movie. Maybe it’s the special effects; maybe it’s the acting; maybe it’s our willingness to suspend disbelief. Whatever the reason, it’s one of the oddities of our time.
And yes, I am guilty of it too.