List of Technologies

Simulated Reality

Simulated reality is a technology that can provide total immersion in a computer simulated world, to a degree indistinguishable from the "true" reality. Technologically, this has not been achieved. So it is more of a fictional concept.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is similar to simulated reality, and has been researched on for more than 50 years. The original concept was proposed by Ivan Sutherland in his seminal talk, where he defined VR as "a window to a virtual world", and the virtual world should "not only look real, but also feel real". Technically, VR tries to achieve immersion by providing multi-sensorial displays to the human senses.Unlike simulated reality, it focuses on the peripheral display instead of directly interfere brain signals[2]. One example of VR display is head mounted display, which projects stereoscopic images to both eyes of a subject. So far, VR systems are not capable of making the subject doubt about the nature they are experiencing. However, making the people believe presence in the virtual world but not the real world, is an active research field in VR called presence[3].

Computer Graphics

The movie also showed the world rendered as wireframes at the borders of the city. Wireframe is a basic representation of 3D object in computer graphics. Computer graphics is an old and large research field in computer science, and is still very popular especially in the movie and game industry. The main goal is to use computer to render virtual world as similar to reality as possible. VR originated from CG research[4].

Brain Computer Interfaces

Many Sci-Fi movies depicted the realization of simulated reality in the form of a brain computer interface system. The Matrix showed a tube that can be directly inserted into the human brain to take over all sensory feeds to achieve simulated reality. The Thirteenth Floor showed a giant cluster machine rendering green lights that somehow project simulated information directly to the human brain without physical contact. The simulation involved a process like memory swap. The user of the system can load the brain of a virtual character, by which he/she gains access to the virtual world. Brain computer interface has ongoing research, but is not like those in the movies. The real world research on BCI is mainly focused on using brain signals as an input device[1].

Artificial Intelligence

The movie showed simulated worlds that have AIs as realistic as real human. Each AI in the simulated world is a "fully formed self-learning cyber bit". They eat, work, sleep, and think just like normal human beings. They have their own emotion, feeling, consciousness, and psychological connections to other AIs. In essence, these AIs are so developed that make them no difference than real human. In reality, AI is a big research field in computer science, especially in robotics research [5]. However, we have not reached the stage where the AI share psychological characteristics like real human beings.

Other Minor Technologies

  • Voicemail Telephone:
  • Current (1980)[6]. Dr. Fuller left message to Douglas's voicemail telephone.

  • RFID Door Lock:
  • Current (1983)[7]. Dr. Fuller's lab used RFID door locks to control access to the simulation room.

  • Server Clusters:
  • Current (2003)[8]. Dr. Fuller's lab used server clusters to simulate AIs in the virtual world.

  • Suvellience Cameras:
  • Current (1980s)[9]. Douglas(David) was captured by suveillience cameras when he murdured Dr. Fuller.

  • Electronic Payment Systems:
  • Current (1987)[10]. Douglas used his credit card to pay for the products he purchased in the supermarket when he met Natasha.

  • Central Personal Information Database:
  • Current (1970)[11]. The police used this system to search for Natasha's drug record.


[1] Donchin, Emanuel, Kevin M. Spencer, and Ranjith Wijesinghe. "The mental prosthesis: assessing the speed of a P300-based brain-computer interface."Rehabilitation Engineering, IEEE Transactions on 8.2 (2000): 174-179.

[2] Brooks Jr, Frederick P. "What's real about virtual reality?." Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE 19.6 (1999): 16-27.

[3] Slater, Mel, Martin Usoh, and Anthony Steed. "Depth of presence in virtual environments." Presence 3.2 (1994): 130-144.

[4] Van Dam, Andries, et al. Computer graphics: principles and practice. Pearson Education, 2013

[5] Russell, Stuart Jonathan, et al. Artificial intelligence: a modern approach. Vol. 2. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice hall, 1995.

[6] "The History of Voicemail" . 2002-02-23. Retrieved 2013-04-30.

[7] "RFID Frequently Asked Questions" . Retrieved 2013-05-20.

[8] Gardner, W. David (9 June 2006). "Microsoft Launches Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003" . InformationWeek. UBM plc.

[9] Roberts, Lucy. "History of Video Surveillance and CCTV" We C U Surveillance Retrieved 2011-10-20]

[10] Biago Bossone and Massimo Cirasino, "The Oversight of the Payment Systems: A Framework for the Development and Governance of Payment Systems in Emerging Economies"The World Bank, July 2001, p.7

[11] Tsitchizris, D. C. and F. H. Lochovsky (1982). Data Models. Englewood-Cliffs, Prentice-Hall.