In “The Last Jedi,” the First Order was able to track the Resistance through hyperspace. But as fans have pointed out, this capability was actually foreshadowed in “The Empire Strikes Back,” when Darth Vader ordered Admiral Piett to calculate every possible destination along the Millennium Falcon’s last known trajectory. The First Order seemed to be using a similar strategy, employing artificial intelligence to calculate the Resistance convoy’s possible trajectories and predict probable destinations.
While real-life surveillance technology isn’t tracking ships through hyperspace, artificial intelligence (AI) is being used for high-tech surveillance. For instance, the U.S. Navy has developed a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile that can use AI to analyze enemy radar signals in order to locate targets. Here are three other examples of how real-life surveillance technology is catching up with science fiction movies.
4K Wireless Remote Camera Viewing
In “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” security chief Odo maintains security through a network of surveillance devices that record images throughout the station. Odo monitors these broadcasts from his office. He sometimes places monitoring devices in areas for specific purposes, as in the episode Visionary where he uses one to catch an assassin who is trying to kill Chief O’Brien’s future self.
Today, this type of on-demand surveillance capability is made possible by easy-to-install video camera systems, which can be monitored from a central office or a mobile device. Today’s best security cameras use 4K Ultra High Definition resolution, which can capture identifying details such as suspect’s hair and eye color even in low-light conditions. For instance, Lorex Technology wireless 4K security cameras provide Ultra HD clarity along with Color Night Vision technology that can deny intruders the concealment of darkness.
Remote Listening Devices
In “The Bionic Woman,” one of Jaime Sommers’ artificial implants was a bionic ear. By using her ear, Sommers could eavesdrop on conversations at a great distance or even through walls.
Cochlear implants have been providing artificial hearing enhancement for decades, approximating the function of a bionic ear for purposes of restoring normal hearing. For surveillance purposes, bionic hearing is usually duplicated by using a headset coupled with an omnidirectional microphone and amplifier. For instance, the Lin Technologies Bionic Ear and Booster can increase sound by 40 decibels, enabling eavsdropping from 100 yards away. The ear’s headset can be combined with a booster for directional listening, enabling pinpointing of sound location and suppression of background noise.
With today’s technology, it’s not necessary to be in the same physical location of a surveillance target to eavesdrop on a conversation. Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo can be converted into eavesdropping devices by hackers, researchers say.
Pre-emptive Crime Prediction
In “Minority Report,” the Washington DC police department’s PreCrime unit stops crimes before they happen by using psychics to predict criminal behavior and pre-emptively arrest suspects. But when the psychics predict PreCrime captain John Anderton is about to commit a murder, Anderton becomes a fugitive and finds out the PreCrime program is harboring a dark secret.
While it doesn’t use psychics, Palantir Technologies — named after Saruman’s crystal-ball surveillance system in “Lord of the Rings” and funded by the CIA — has developed an AI tool that can analyze crime trend data in urban areas and predict where crimes are more likely to happen. Police can then determine which areas need more patrol duty. The Chinese government is combining AI with facial recognition technology from CloudWalk Technology to spot potential criminal behavior. The system combines police data with analysis of behavior in order to assign subjects a rating representing how likely they are to commit a crime. High-risk individuals get tracked by CloudWalk’s technology, with reports forwarded to police if the individuals turn up at key facilities.
Ultra high definition wireless security cameras, remote listening devices and pre-emptive crime prediction are three surveillance technologies where reality is catching up to science fiction and in some cases surpassing it. As technology continues to advance, the line between SF and reality will become increasingly thin, with surveillance becoming more sophisticated and effective.