List of Computing Technologies

The technologies in this movie are not shown off in great detail, but the ones that are, are very much relevant in our current day and age.

Rekall Machines – Fictional

  • The key technology in the film is the Rekall machines.  Used to implant false memories, these machines are advertised in the film as a way of providing cheap dream vacations but find other uses as well. While not currently used in humans in the real world, false memory implantation has been successfully achieved in animals [1].

Self-Driving Cars – Emerging

  • Self-driving taxis, known as Johnny Cabs, are shown in a number of scenes in the film.  These cabs are capable of picking up passengers, interpreting spoken destinations and driving without any assistance from a human operator.  While self-driving taxis are not currently used in the real world, the technology does exist and has begun to be deployed in a limited fashion.  Notable examples of self-driving vehicles include Google’s Waymo project, Ford’s Fusion self-driving cars, and Tesla’s autopilot system.

Tracking Systems – Existing

  • In the film, Quaid realizes that he has had a tracker implanted into his brain by the government to track his movements.  Though trackers in people’s heads are a work of fiction, tracking technology, such as GPS chips and cellular triangulation do exist in the real world and have been used for this purpose.

Holography – Emerging

  • One of the devices left by Quaid’s previous self was a watch that could create a hologram of the user. The hologram seems real and can be observed from any angle. Today, holographic displays are being developed that allow people to view three dimensional objects. These devices are currently limited to box viewers or certain viewing angles to give enough space for light to be projected properly. Current consumer plans for these products are also limited to vector drawings due to the costs of adding more lights to increase resolution [2].

Full-body scanning – Existing

  • When he goes to board the subway, Quaid walks through a full body X-Ray machine at the security desk.  The machine gives the guards a view of Quaid’s skeleton and allows them to find the weapon he is concealing.  This scanner is reminiscent of the backscatter X-Ray machines employed by the TSA at many airports, which are capable of giving a detailed view under people’s clothing. [3]

Touchscreen Tablets – Existing

  • During Quaid’s Rekall procedure, one of the scientists brings up a screen with some choices for Quaid’s love interest. This screen is interesting because she manipulates it using her hands. This is interesting, as it is one of the rare cases of touchscreen tablets being shown in the movie. The movie was made way before any touchscreen tablet, such as the iPad Pro or Samsung Galaxy Tab, even existed.

Videotelephony – Existing

  • At a number of points in Total Recall, characters are shown using videophones.  These do exist in the real world, but rather than the bulky stand-alone devices in the film, they are almost always integrated into other devices such as cell phones and laptops.

Digital Currency – Existing

  • When Quaid checks into the Mars Hilton, he pays for his room using digital credits attached to his ID.  While you can’t pay using a drivers license in the real world,  digital payment options, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet, do exist.

Digital Nail Polish – Fictional

  • The receptionist at Rekall was able to change her nail polish by simply tapping her fingernails.  While certainly interesting, this technology remains a work of fiction.

Full-body Prosthetic Disguise – Fictional

  • When Quaid tried to sneak onto Mars, he was wearing a full-body disguise that allowed him to take on the form of an older woman.  Though this disguise eventually malfunctioned, it proved to be convincing enough to get him to Mars.  Though common in other films, these disguises are a work of pure fiction.