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fiction in pop culture has a tendency to cross over into real life all the time. Video games, TV, and films have introduced cool gadgets, communication systems, and sciences that have been introduced real life technologies, some of which we use every day. These are a few of our favorites.

Mobile Phones

Appears in: Star Trek
Robot hand holding digital tablet
Martin Cooper, the engineer who invented the first cell phone while working at Motorola, was inspired by the communicators that Star Trek characters carry on away missions to new planets. So you can thank Captain Kirk for your cell phone.

Until the 1990s, when cell phones became popular, communication on the go was as unrealistic and fantastic as warp drive—that’s why it was a major feature of Star Trek in the first place!

Tablet Computers

Appears in: Star Trek
Build a tower
iPad, Surface, Kindle Fire, and other tablet computers were also inspired by Star Trek. Characters like Captain Picard and Geordi LaForge are always figuring out how to handle an alien threat or repair the Enterprise by tapping on their PADD (Personal Access Display Device) computers.

Obviously, the iPad has a pretty similar name to the Star Trek tech. Steve Jobs even made an homage to the Star Trek device when he introduced the iPad: Jobs showed clips from the movie during the iPad’s product demonstration.

Voice Control

Appears in: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek

Introducing the all-new Echo Dot
If you’ve ever asked Siri what traffic is like, or asked Alexa to buy paper towels, you’re doing for real what actors had to pretend to do: use a computer with your voice.

2001: A Space Odyssey features a talking computer that doesn’t exactly follow commands. And Star Trek—which keeps coming up!—sees characters talking to a supercomputer in nearly every episode.


Appears in: RPGs, shooters, action, and adventure games
First aid kit

Medpacs have been a device in adventure games from the outset. Characters beset by monsters, aliens, goblins, and zombies run over to a medpack and regain their hit points.

Real life soldiers and police officers could soon benefit from similar technology. DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research and development arm, has invested in a liquid injection foam that can stop internal bleeding.


Appears in: Back to the Future

Back to the Future Part 2 (3/12) Movie CLIP - Hover Board Chase (1989) HD
People all over are starting to use hoverboards to get around. You might have seen someone gliding down the street and done a double take.

Our hoverboards don’t fly—they’re driven by wheels—but Marty McFly got to use a flying version in an exciting chase scene in Back to the Future 2. For now, we’ll just have to watch from our wheeled versions until the real thing comes around.


Appears in: HALO, Iron Man
Master_Chief_in_Halo_5 1
In combat games like HALO, the player’s avatar uses a sophisticated mechanical suit to enhance their abilities in combat. HALO’s Master Chief character employs a suit that incorporates body armor, a heads up display, and a sophisticated artificial intelligence entity called Cortana.

Iron Man’s Tony Stark, meanwhile, can fly (among other things) when he puts on his advanced suit.

Soldiers are now testing out exoskeletons that might let them become stronger and faster.

Franchise Mode

Appears in: Sports games, including Football Manager

Fans of sports games love playing in franchise/manager/GM mode, which allow them to scout, trade, and sign new players for their team.

Real life soccer teams have started using the Football Manager player database for scouting. Soccer clubs in lower divisions don’t have the resources to collect data on every pro soccer player in every country, and they can use Football Manager to decide where to direct their resources.

Flying Cars

Appears in: Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, The Jetsons

Spinner Take off - Blade Runner
The image of a flying car was a space age trope: it started appearing in 1950s and 1960s media like the Jetsons. Cracking wise about flying cars is a popular way to make fun of society and technology’s progress—or lack thereof.

So we’ll see if Uber’s plan to launch flying car services in Dallas and Dubai by 2020 takes off.

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