Hollywood executives have looked at the red pill and the blue pill and decided to swallow the one that will give them the most cash: Plans for a reboot of The Matrix starring Michael B. Jordan are underway, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Additional details for the film are vague, but one thing that’s certain is that real-life technology has outpaced the predictions made in 1999. If the Matrix reboot is going to capture the imagination of nerds like the original did, it’s going to need to invent tech that doesn’t already exist.
Sure, humans aren’t currently flying through the streets, slowing down time to dodge bullets — but we have created technology that used to seem applicable only to Neo and Morpheus. Here’s the tech from the original film that advances in research have made too real to call science fiction:
Body Energy Harvesting
Machines in The Matrix harvest the energy of humans as their own power source. In a much less gnarly version, scientists in real life are learning how to harvest the body’s natural energy as well. In 2016, researchers revealed in Nature Communications that they had created a “novel class of mechanical energy harvesters,” wearable devices that harness movement to ignite electrochemically alloyed electrodes, which in turn create energy. Later in 2016, a team of Chinese researchers announced that their “shape-adaptive triboelectric nanogenerator,” a wearable, could harness human movement to power small objects, while a few months later a team of North Carolina State University researchers reported that they made an even better version of the device. This wearable is coated with a conductive polymer layer that makes use of the body’s heat to produce 20 microwatts of energy per square centimeter.
Electrical Skill Transfer
In a classic Matrix moment, Neo realizes that kung-fu and jiu-jitsu skills have been directly uploaded into his brain. Real-life technology isn’t quite there yet, but researchers have learned that they can enhance people’s capacity to learn new skills by hijacking their brain waves. In 2016, scientists from HRL laboratories introduced transcranial direct stimulation (TDCS), a technique in which a part of the brain is zapped via electrode-studded skull cap in electrical patterns matching those found in the brains of expert pilots. When novice pilots used the device for four days, they experienced a 33 percent increase in flying skills. In this experiment, the part of the brain that was stimulated was associated with working memory — in The Matrix, skills were actually being uploaded to the brain as if it were a computer — but electrode stimulation resulted in improved ability nonetheless.
Elon Musk is essentially the Mr. Matrix of Silicon Valley: Not only has he proposed that we all live in a simulation; he’s also hinted that a Matrix-style “neural lace” — a device that essentially would be a computer interface set into the brain — is on the horizon. Neural lace technology has the potential to serve as the wireless middle man between the brain and a constant upload of online information; it’s a switch-controlled entity that, as Musk has said, can increase the amount we can input into it because of its high bandwidth. This device isn’t available yet, but from the way Musk is dishing on social media, it shouldn’t be too long before it’s premiered. Ideally, this Matrix-like machine will come out before the new movies do.