Almost Human: the future tech we wish existed
Sci-fi crime thriller Almost Human takes place in a world full of exciting new technology. Here are the inventions we covet the most…
The year is 2048. Evolving technologies can no longer be regulated. Dangerous advancements forever alter the criminal landscape. Police are not prepared. Law enforcement combats this corruption with a new line of defence... but not all are created equal.
Technology porn is an undeniable part of Almost Human’s attraction. J.H. Wyman’s sci-fi crime drama takes place in a world stuffed with cool gadgets, from big ticket items like its car-flipping synthetic humans to just-for-fun inventions like tiny robotic giraffes.
It’s an impressive feat of world-building that not only recalls the show’s sci-fi heritage (from Blade Runner to Battlestar Galactica, Almost Human proudly wears its influences on its sleeve) but also ensures its audience are held convincingly in thrall.
Set just fifty years from now, the show prompts you to imagine whether its tech developments could be seen in our lifetimes. Some, like the Bitcoin stick or organic 3D printer, appear to be on their way. Others, like Almost Human's sophisticated DRN and MX androids, feel somewhat further off. With the series now airing on Tuesday nights on Watch (on Sky 109 and Virgin 124) in the UK, here’s our pick of Almost Human’s most covetable technological inventions…
If you’re well-funded, 2048 is a good time to be an urban criminal according to Almost Human. Whatever gadget you require for your nefarious plan, from a parabolic pulse to take out a cop car or a nifty way to avoid being recognised on CCTV, you name it and it’s yours.
Probably the smartest bit of criminal kit we’ve seen in Almost Human - chiefly for its simplicity - is the DNA bomb. Anyone wishing to cover their tracks can drop one of these babies and shower a crime scene with DNA from thousands of different people, making it impossible for Forensics to isolate the presence of a single individual. Other police-interfering equipment on the show include the Tag Scrambler, which makes number plates impossible to track, and a drink that can inhibit the signal sent out by the subcutaneous GPS chip people are injected with in the future.
In terms of Almost Human’s weaponry, alongside the light bombs, fission igniters and auto-guidance bullets, one item stood out as covetable for its cartoony value: a gun that shoots a sticky blob of bubblegum-like matter over someone’s face to keep them quiet. Glimpsed briefly during an episode one kidnapping, this non-fatal weapon would be our pick of the bunch (chiefly for use on crowded commuter trains).
Criminal disguises too have come a long way by 2048. No longer do crooks have to don a sweaty balaclava or pull a pair of tights over their faces to ensure they’re not recognised when committing bad deeds. Almost Human has such a thing as a Flash Mask, which comes in the form of a facial spray that obscures the human face on CCTV footage and makes your head appear as a featureless, white, glowing ovoid on camera. If you need something more long-lasting, then there’s the Face Maker, a small device worn on the chest which can be used to make your face look exactly like somebody else’s, a kind of electronic Polyjuice potion if you will.
For legal reasons, Den Of Geek wishes to categorically state that it does not condone criminal activity, nor will it in the year 2048. Even if the tech involved is really, really cool.
I am the law
If criminals have it good in 2048, then law enforcement has it even better, even if they are still using Segways to get around the evidence stacks. Before we come to Almost Human’s piece de resistance - its Synthetics - there’s a whole heap of useful looking gadgets for protecting and serving.
First up are Captain Maldonado’s whizzy Tony Stark-meets-Minority Report hologram computer screens, which run programmes that find fingerprint and facial recognition matches in a trice. Also saving time for the Force when it comes to identifying people in the future are instant DNA tests that work like breathalysers and eliminate the need to wait around for results from the lab. Thirdly we have the ‘Coms’. These flying drones whirr around the city doing all manner of police work from finding missing people to surveilling suspects, to being used as a conduit through which to negotiate in siege situations. They could probably deliver Amazon packages too, we’d have thought.
Less showy but equally useful is the digital police tape that automatically lets only badged officers onto a crime scene, as well as the nifty subcutaneous wires cops and informers wear in the future to record undercover operations. The idea of letting threatened witnesses deliver their testimony from a secure remote location and beaming them in to the courtroom as holograms is also, in theory at least, also a winner.
Which brings us to law enforcement’s Almost Human trump card: its Synthetics. Michael Ealy’s Dorian may not be a fan of the term, and Karl Urban’s John Kennex may not be a fan of them in general, but there’s no denying the show’s androids are something really quite special. As well as all the usual strength, speed, combat and firearms proficiency you’d expect, the MX Units and their predecessors, the DRNs, are also walking forensics labs, GP’s surgeries, Wikipedias and Rosetta Stones. Not only can they inject themselves with human blood and DNA to analyse it, hack into computers at a distance, scan humans for medical readings, record data and speak multiple languages, they can also give you real-time updates on football results and even - get this - warm your coffee on the drive to work. We’ll take two please.
Medical advances in future-set sci-fi are always some of its most covetable inventions. Take John Kennex’s prosthetic leg, which recharges overnight on its own dock and only needs the odd olive oil massage to keep it creak-free, for starters.
MX and DRN units, as mentioned above, also have considerable medical applications. They’re able to measure blood pressure and perform diagnostic scans without inflating a rubber band around your arm or getting you anywhere near an X-Ray machine. That scan function can lead to some, er, privacy issues, as Kennex and Dorian find out in Almost Human’s second episode, Skin.
Also useful would be one of the show’s pharmaceutical printers, to save you having to pop to the chemist’s any time you need a prescription filled, or indeed, an all-purpose organic 3D printer, which enables you to print human bodies/delicious birthday cupcakes as required.
Cosmetic surgery too, has come on in leaps and bounds by the year 2048 (and not in the creepy Brazil way either). Want Cheryl Cole’s nose or David Beckham’s cheekbones? Simply steal their DNA and inject it into yourself using Nanobots to rebuild you from the inside. Just to warn you though, this procedure isn’t without its fatal side effects.
Finally, one of the first impressive bits of medical kit we meet in Almost Human is the doohickey strapped to John Kennex’s head in episode one’s opening scene. The property of an illegal underground ‘recollectionist’, this device is able to trigger certain clusters in the brain to retrieve forgotten or repressed memories. Highly useful for when you’ve mislaid your keys/your ex-girlfriend was part of the criminal ambush that lost you your partner and your leg.
Leave a message after the beep
Battlestar Galactica showed it was the future by cutting the corners off its sheets of A4 paper; Almost Human doesn’t even use paper. Instead, sheets of OHT-style clear transparent polythene load up whatever digital information has been saved on them. The effect isn’t unlike that of Doctor Who’s psychic notepaper, which has to be one of the most useful bits of fictional future tech ever imagined.
As every sci-fi film or TV show since the year dot have reminded us, video-calling is huge in the future. In Almost Human’s 2048, so popular are hologram phone calls (in which whomever’s calling you can be projected in miniature onto, say, your hand) there’s even a slang term for when a date answers so many calls that the romance fizzles out of the situation: holoblocking.
What do you do on your day off?
It’s not all work, work, work in 2048; the citizens of future LA also find the time to pursue a variety of leisure activities. There’s a really good golfing simulator for one, as well as a medical procedure that can turn you into a psychic medium if you’re so inclined.
By 2048, music comes with its own holograms, as seen used by Rudy in episode one to project a tiny Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode onto his desk to entertain him while he works. If that doesn’t tickle you, then how about playing with your own personal giraffe or Blade Runner-style electrical butterfly?
We’ve come this far without mentioning them, but now’s the time to bring up Almost Human’s range of realistic-looking sexbots. The subject of episode two, Skin, these pleasure devices are part of a thriving, regulated industry in 2048. According to a recent poll, apparently one in six people in the UK would have no problem doing it with a robot, so now we know.
The future tech we’re not that jazzed about
In addition to the Almost Human future tech we’re itching to get our hands on, there are some technological advances we’d happily let pass us by. Hologram billboards that float in the sky, for instance, motorway tunnels filled with moving ad screens, and traffic signs projected straight on to the road are surely a recipe for a pile-up.
Also at the top of nobody’s list is John Kennex’s futuristic alarm clock, which looks exactly like a regular digital alarm clock except that the time is projected as a hologram an inch or two in front of the display. Anyway, we think they might already sell those in Argos.
We’re also not convinced that having vehicle number plates as bar codes is all that hot an idea. It’s the end of personalised number plates for a start (no bad thing, we suppose), but more importantly, how will instructors test your eyesight when you take your driving test? “Thick one, thin one, thick one, thin one…”
Philosophically speaking too, the idea of psychologically profiling every citizen and putting those with criminal-leaning DNA on a special register presents its own problems, as do automated home security systems with the ability to kill. As Dorian reminds John in episode one, “Sometimes newer technology isn’t better...”.
Almost Human airs on Tuesdays at 9pm (on Sky 109 and Virgin 124) on Watch.
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