The future of wireless technology has been around for years, if you've seen the right movies.
The faster speeds and larger bandwidth of 5G, the fifth-generation wireless network, is expected to help fuel an explosion of innovation across industries. Augmented reality applications that today sound futuristic, if not far-fetched, soon may become commonplace. While it's hard to know which 5G-enabled technologies are just around the corner and which are further off, Hollywood films are a good place to look for some of the earliest use cases. It wouldn't be the first time that life has imitated art.
Here are five movies that predicted the future of 5G.
1. Minority Report (2002)
Set in the year 2054, this film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise hinges on the concept of precognition, which allows humans to see the future and prevent crimes before they take place. There's realistic technology mixed into the story, however, such as when Tom Cruise walks into a Gap and a holographic salesperson asks, "How did those assorted tank tops work out for you?" With the 5G network, retailers may soon be able to analyze consumers' purchasing histories through their mobile devices and send them targeted ads the instant they enter stores. Whether that's in the form of a holograph or a push notification remains to be seen.
2. Iron Man (2008)
The first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe featured one of the first demonstrations of how AR applications will eventually be used in the design process. In the film, Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Tony Stark, works with a holographic blueprint of his superhero suit, designing and manipulating the 3-D image with simple hand gestures. When 5G-enabled devices can create lifelike holograms, product design may be among the first industries to ditch the two-dimensional screen for more realistic representations of works in progress.
3. Wall-E (2008)
There are countless examples of AR technology in Disney's animated movie about a lonely robot living in the 29th century. One that's not too far off takes place when people on a space cruise are encouraged to "try blue, it's the new red." With the push of a button, their outfits switch from red to blue. In the clothing stores of the future, high-definition screens powered by 5G will let customers try on clothes virtually, visualizing new looks without having to wear the physical items.
4. Avatar (2009)
Director James Cameron's epic sci-fi film about life on a habitable moon in the year 2154 includes many references to the "heads-up display," a transparent screen that allows information to be overlaid on top so that users don't have to look away. In the movie, humans who fly planes and operate exoskeletal vehicles are seen in cockpits with navigation data and other information overlaid on top of heads-up displays. One area where this technology might exist in a 5G world involves autonomous cars, as windshields could evolve to become dashboards featuring different types of information once humans no longer need to keep their eyes on the road.
5. Creative Control (2015)
This sci-fi comedy set "five minutes in the future" focuses on a young advertising executive who becomes obsessed with a pair of AR eyeglasses and their highly immersive interface. The film suggests that AR devices are destined to be as ubiquitous as smartphones as soon as they become both wearable and fashionable. Writer-director Ben Dickinson may have been on to something. A recently leaked Apple presentation indicates the company plans to release its first AR headset in 2022 and a better-looking version in 2023. If and when wearable devices do eventually replace smartphones, they'll need to be powered by the 5G network.