Sci-Fi Movie Night #4: Iron Man

Last week I hosted the fourth Sci-Fi Movie Ideation night at Lemnos. We watched “Iron Man,” our second live action movie selection, and in it we found inspiration around two core themes: the future of visualization and the future of robotics.

As a reminder, the rules of Sci-Fi Movie Ideation Night are:

  • Get eight people in a room, pick a sci-fi movie, and watch the first 45 minutes.
  • During that time, write on individual Post-it notes each technology in the movie that doesn’t exist yet.
  • At the end of the 45 minutes, put all the notes on a whiteboard.
  • Then ask, “Which of these could happen in the next five years?”

Now onto the three technologies we felt were most likely to be available soon.

  1. Holographic Display Screens — In Tony Stark’s garage there are often displays and CAD models shown floating in air. We thought that if the user was willing to wear glasses, this type of interface could available in the near future. Two aspects that really appealed to us were the ability for the 3D displays to change perspective as Stark walked around and his ability to interact with the objects through some sort of motion tracking system.

The Microsoft HoloLens is starting to explore this kind of multi-user display system. In the coming years, we believe this type of display could gain a lot of traction, especially as VR and AR take off. Already you have companies like Snapchat rendering 3D models with correct perspective in real-time, and excellent motion tracking is available with video game consoles.

  1. Home AV That Works (aka the fancy iPad) — The Stark home has a fully integrated AV system with features like a local intercom, fingerprint access control, and access to music, video, and outside content. All of these systems exist today but are hopelessly locked in their own silos. Around the table, we discussed the impossibility of currently integrating TV, wireless sound system, phone, and access control.

Smart homes today remind me of “smart” phones before the iPhone came out. While they have a feature or two that is interesting, taken as a whole they are terrible. To integrate locks, cameras, music, and video, and to do it all across the home, while also dynamically understanding the user, is impossible right now.

We felt there is a major opportunity for the first company that really nails it. Although Apple, Google, and Amazon are all working on these types of integrations, none have the ease of use that we saw in “Iron Man”. In addition the AI layer, or J.A.R.V.I.S., which sits on top of the home systems, improves functionality while personalizing all aspects of the system.

  1. Conversational Robotics — While working on his Iron Man suit, Stark often critiques his robot arm helpers. These robots show a remarkable ability to understand nuance and even sarcasm. This gives them the ability to move and perform actions to help Tony on his projects. The other aspect of the conversations that we felt was interesting was the robots’ good understanding of subjective directions, such as “Point it over there”. They not only understood the command, they understood it within the moving coordinate frame that Tony was operating in.

This type of technology is just around the corner. Voice interfaces are becoming more common in all aspects of consumer and industrial electronics due to the rapid decrease in hardware costs and the rapid increase in robotic comprehension. In addition, the technologies for knowing where someone is and localization are widely available.

We’re always on the lookout for the next great company in these spaces. So if you’re working on robotics or the future of visualization, please reach out! You can find me on Twitter @nomadicnerd or at