Credit: LADD COMPANY/RIDLEY SCOTT/WARNER BROS

The line between fact and fiction has become increasingly blurred, thanks to developments – including in semiconductors – that have brought to life conveniences, characters and creative inventions once spotted on the big screen

1. Hello officer KD6-3.7

In Blade Runner (1982), androids – aka Nexus 6 replicants – are virtually identical to humans and at least as intelligent as the genetic engineers who created them. While we’re not quite there yet, semiconductor devices including low-power microprocessors, 3D sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes are powering a new generation of life-like social robots. Just look at NTU’s Nadine – she has her own personality, mood, and emotions, can adapt her responses and remembers previous conversations.

2. Driving the future

Who doesn’t recall Johnny Cab, the automated taxi driver who ushers Arnold Schwarzenegger around in the 1990’s hit Total Recall. Now imagine a smart car that can unload its passengers, park itself, then return for pick up when summoned via smartphone. Automotive Ethernet technology, which allows a massive amount of data to be exchanged between vehicle and external devices, has opened the door to a world of possibilities, this being just one. Using its PHY, Switch, controller and processor products, Marvell is revving the engines to bring autonomous driving technology to a whole new level.

3. Computing at your fingertips

Two decades ago, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) stood in front of a transparent screen, manipulating digital images by waving his hands in the 2002 blockbuster Minority Report. Today, Infineon’s XENSIV 60GHz sensor chip enables Google Pixel 4 smartphone users to skip tracks, silence calls and interact with pokémon Pikachu with the wave of a hand. The radar chips basically turn human presence and movements into natural interfaces – think speakers and lights that turn on when you’re in the room, and even measure your vitals. 

4. Virtual worlds made real

In the cult science fiction movie The Matrix (1999), humans live in a computer-generated simulation. While we are still some distance away from Matrix-level Human Computer Interaction, the development in the field of virtual reality has been phenomenal. Last year, Micron announced the GDDR6X, the world’s fastest discrete graphics memory solution that accelerates photorealistic 3D experiences at 1 terabyte per second, rates once thought impossible. The unprecedented speed of GDDR6X is at the heart of NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 and 3080 GPUs – helping to deliver rich, realistic, cinematic user experiences.

5. A connected universe

With the command “On screen!”, Star Trek captains aboard the USS Enterprise could communicate face-to-face, and in real time with adversaries or allies on different planets or starships. Today, video calls are common tools for work, school or simply to catch up – and we have high speed data communications to thank for this. Inphi’s Digital Signal Processing (DSP) chips, for instance, speed up communications inside and between data centres, improving the speed and quality of all the data traffic generated through emails, chats and video.

6. Watch this space

When it comes to wearable technology, it’s hard to beat James Bond. One that stands out is [s3] the OMEGA watch worn by Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye, with an inbuilt timer, remote detonator and a laser strong enough to cut a hole in steel. Today’s wearable tech is far more benign, as no less impressive, offering seamless connectivity and location tracking, with Infineon pushing the envelope on lower energy consumption, and security solutions.

7. Bring on biometrics

Driver’s licenses are a thing of the past in the 1987 science fiction movie RoboCop, where identification is established by the police force through digital facial recognition. Realtek’s latest development – a next generation, low power, high performance wireless video-centric IoT edge device with built-in AI engine – brings us pretty close: a video doorbell capable of recognising multiple human faces simultaneously, surveillance cameras with human detection and motion tracking, and camera drones are just some of the things it enables.