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29th Jun 2023

Movies Predicting the Future of MedTech: The Sequel  

Jessica Farrow

Like with any good sequel, it needs to start with some context of the original, and in this case, it was ‘Did movies predict the future of MedTech?’. In my last blog, I took some time to investigate the dystopian cult classics that include extraordinary medical technology well before their time. So for the sequel, I thought I would flip this on its head, and predict (or even just wish) which technologies could soon be possible based on those featured in movies.  

Let’s begin. 

Elysium – Nanotechnology

First up is 2013’s Elysium. Elysium is set in a future where Earth has become extremely overpopulated, with most of the population living in poverty and facing a multitude of medical conditions. On the other hand, the upper class of society have left to live out their lives on Elysium, a utopian space station. Using ground-breaking technology, they don’t just sustain life in space, but excel in relation to medical technology – in particular, nanotechnology. In each property, citizens have a ‘Med Bay’ that has the ability to diagnose and heal all injuries and diseases and prolong life indefinitely.  

 Whilst this movie took the concept to the extreme with Med Bay’s, and the fact that prolonging life indefinitely could lead to a whole host of other problems, the basis of nanotechnology is really interesting. 

 Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials, and devices, and when applied to health it can be referred to as ‘nanomedicine’. Nanotechnology could enable medical professionals to target specific cells or tissues and transform diagnostics and the delivery of drugs. Nanofibers is a sub-division that is currently gaining traction and might become commonplace as soon as the next five years. In trial phrases, it has been utilised for wound dressing, surgical textiles and implants, tissue technology, and artificial organ components.  

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – Memory Medical Devices  

 Amnesia or memory loss has been a central plot to many movies, from Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ to Disney’s ‘Finding Dory’. But Eternal Sunshine brings forth the concept of MedTech devices that could purposefully remove memories. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind follows the story of a relationship that turns sour, so much so that the couple choose to undergo a medical procedure to erase their memories of one another.  

 Whilst there are some clear ethical boundaries that would need to be defined with this technology, scientists have conducted studies that could open the door to this technology being used in the future for those suffering from PTSD or drug addiction. Professor Sheena Josselyn spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and explained how they have been able to discover the specific brain cells where a particular memory is stored and even decrease the activity in these cells, acting as it if were erased.  

Big Hero 6 – Medical Support Robots

Less dystopian and more Disney, but Big Hero 6 includes some incredible medical technology that could present real value in the future. The main one, of course, being Baymax. Now if you haven’t watched Big Hero 6, (and if that is you, get with the programme!) Baymax is an inflatable healthcare companion robot that works as a medical assistant. With a built-in scanner, Baymax can assess the healthcare needs of anyone, gaining information on what ails them, and which remedy can best treat them.  

Whilst some of the science is decades away, work is already underway to develop a ‘soft robot’ with the focus being to support the healthcare sector. Japanese company RIBA-II is already working on a care-giving robot with tactile sensors that’s purpose is to support the elderly population by supporting their mobility and essentially carrying them to where they need to be. Personally, I hope to see the functionalities of these soft robots expand in the future and will be first in line for a Baymax. 

Ready Player One – Haptic Feedback  

 80’s inspired Ready Player One directed by Steven Spielberg follows the story of Wade Watts in a futuristic version of Columbus Ohio. In this reality, everyone takes part in immersive virtual reality, with this becoming more of a reality than the world itself. But to truly achieve this immersive experience and feel senses in the ‘Oasis’, they utilise heat-sensitive haptic suits.  

 Interestingly, haptic suits are already in use, just not to the extent of the population living in virtual reality. Teslasuit has developed advanced suits that provide haptic feedback and capture motion and biometrics to be applied across academia, gaming, or XR training. There are exciting use cases in the medical field – for example, being utilised in empathetic training or conducting research and clinical trials. 


MedTechs Future  

Now as much as movies are escapism set apart from reality, the medical technology showcased in the movies could soon be, or are fast becoming, reality. The MedTech industry is innovating at lightning speed and could see the likes of nanotechnology, helper robots, or memory manipulation becoming a part of our everyday lives.  

MedTech’s clearly a topic I am very passionate about, and I recently developed a report that investigates the new realm of patient care for Halston Group. The paper includes insight from incredible MedTechs that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to deliver better care to patients globally, and you can download it for free via this link