Want to predict the future? Maybe you should head to the movies or crack open a book.
Before technology can be tested in a lab, it has to be hatched in someone's brain. And, often, those brains don't belong to scientists and product developers, but to imaginative science fiction writers and movie makers.
Sometimes it's deliberate and sometimes it's not, but science fiction writers and scientists have long mirrored each others' work.
"It's incestuous," said science fiction writer and futurist Brenda Cooper. "I think there's a sort of constant dialogue that goes on with science fiction writers and scientists and product designers."
A complete list of all the science fiction prophecies that came true would fill pages. But check out some of our favorite recent examples below.
It sounds like the basis of Steven Spielberg's 2002 film "Minority Report": a police unit dedicated to uncovering crimes before they even happen.
But for police officers with the Memphis Police Department, this is almost reality. Instead of relying on human-like psychics, however, the officers rely on a sophisticated computer program.
It evaluates a wide range of factors – data on arrests, reported crime, probation, parole and even the weather – and then helps law enforcement identify patterns in crime as well as potential hotspots.
"If you can identify what kinds of crimes are occurring in a location, what days they are occurring and what time frame [in which] they are occurring, you really do have a sense of where to put the police," said Richard Janikowski, director of the Center for Community Criminology and Research at the University of Memphis.
The predictive analytics software, called CRUSH (for Criminal Reduction Utilizing Statistical History), is owned by IBM but has been adapted by the police department.
IBM and the Memphis Police Department announced this month that, since the program started in 2006, crime in Memphis has dropped 30 percent overall and violent crime has declined about 15 percent. Janikowski said organization and leadership changes contributed to the decrease in crime, but the technology played a significant role.
Next time you go to Japan, you might have your very own "Minority Report" moment.
Japanese railway companies are trying digital billboards that can determine the gender and age of people looking at them and then show them customized advertisements.
According to the Agence-France Presse, a group of 11 companies launched a one-year pilot of these high-tech billboards last month.
Unlike the billboards that called out to Tom Cruise's character in "Minority Report," these boards can't identify individual people. But, using cameras, they can determine an onlooker's sex and approximate age and then offer up an appropriate ad.
So it's not the saucer-shaped vehicle George Jetson took to work. The skies are still waiting to welcome cars that fly.
This week, Terrafugia, a leading flying car company in Woburn, Mass., unveiled its most recent "roadable aircraft."
The dual-purpose vehicle is equally comfortable on the road and in the sky. Its wings can fold up to let the aircraft drive on the road and fit in a garage. The wings extend so that the Terrafugia can take flight.