Biometrics in Hollywood movies: fantasy or reality?

The film industry in general isn't recognized for its commitment to truth, and Hollywood's depiction of biometric technology is no exception. The use of technologies such as fingerprint scanners, face recognition software, and iris recognition technology has become increasingly frequent in a variety of films to portray dramatic and high-tech images of the future.

Let's take a more in-depth look at the way biometrics are portrayed in movies, and what of what we see there is science fiction and what is a reality that most people probably know very little about.

Biometrics in Hollywood blockbusters

First, we ought to define biometrics and how biometric characteristics may be used to identify people. Biometrics refers to the identification of a person utilizing a character's unique physical and behavioral features. Each individual has some quantitative and fixed markers that do not vary over time or alter very minimally. These signs are so distinct that they may identify one individual from another.

In addition to the well-known DNA, fingerprints, and face, unique biometric characteristics include the pupil/iris of the eye, palm print, hand print, scent, "pattern" of veins on the fingers and palm, and so on.

Many biometric parameters of a person may be used by modern technology for identifying people, but they vary in cost, speed, and accuracy of usage. Biometric technologies are often used to control access to important objects or to identify criminals. These aspects are well-represented in films, including, of course, Bond movies.


In one of the Bond films — "Skyfall", a security camera in the London Underground is used to search for an individual’s face.

The film shows how the biometric identification system scans and validates faces with security cameras before recommending the "best fit" solutions. Bond was readily located since his face was uncovered, he was facing the crowd, and the camera easily recognized him. However, the situation was more complex while looking for an intruder among the crowd – in a hat pulled practically over the eyes, it is nearly impossible to recognize a person. To calculate its algorithm, the system must "see" the entire face (which includes data such as the distance between the eyes, the distance from the eyes to the lips, etc.). The technology recognizes the intruder when he raises his head and the camera "sees" his eyes.

It should be underlined that this is not only possible, but it already works in reality.

Demolition Man

The amputation of body parts (from one person) to identify and get access to top-secret things by another person or to collect information is the next iteration of biometrics that is frequently exploited in movies. The film "Demolition Man" is one example of an eye being removed and used.

In reality, this doesn't work. Because the majority of today's technologies are created with a "live" identification mechanism (pulse, reflexes, temperature, humidity coefficient, etc.), it is not possible to identify a dead portion of the body using these methods. Those who use fingerprint readers in their day-to-day lives can attest to the fact that the performance of the gadget is significantly diminished during the winter months because the fingers freeze.

In addition to the built-in mechanism that was just described, there is also a biological limitation: a severed finger is considered "invalid" after approximately ten minutes; an amputated eyeball decomposes rather quickly, and the pupil spreads out, making it unsuitable for use as a unique identifier; the eyeball also decomposes rather quickly.

Minority Report

Developing the topic of biometric authentication with the help of the eyes, it is worth noting that an eye transplant procedure is a common approach in filmmaking for changing identity and gaining access to something. The film "Minority Report" is one such example.

Eye surgeons are unlikely to transplant an entire eyeball, owing to the inutility of such a procedure. For the eye to operate, the optic nerve must also work, which cannot be "stitched on" (much as a brain transplant cannot be performed), at least not yet. An eyeball transplant procedure is theoretically conceivable, but this eye will be unable to see, which is why nothing like this is done. We can only guess whether such an eye may be utilized for biometric identification.

Back to the Future 2

One of the most prophetic and reliable films in the field of biometric technology was "Back to the Future 2"

The video depicts the active usage of biometric technology multiple times. To begin, this is the identification of a person using fingerprints (instead of, say, a passport). Remember how the cops fingerprinted Jennifer Parker, who was sedated by Doc prior to "arriving" in 2015? Secondly, the officers used the same fingerprint to enter Jennifer's Hill Dale home. Thirdly, payment for products and services was using biometrics rather than credit cards: elderly Biff pays for a cab by merely putting his finger on a biometric sensor.


In each of these three counts, the authors have made excellent points. You are required to leave your biometric data in order to receive a visa to enter the United States, the European Union, and some other countries. These biometric data might be in the form of fingerprints or retinal scans. Of course, not all US residents have had their fingerprints taken yet.

In addition, payments made using a customer's fingerprint have already started to become more commonplace in the banking industry. The widespread Apple Pay service is a good illustration of this point. To validate the transaction, all that is required of you is to scan your fingerprint by pressing a single button that is located on the front of your smartphone. In newer models, you simply have to scan your face.

Last but not least, a number of firms have already introduced door locks that can be opened using a fingerprint. One of Samsung's many business divisions focuses on "Smart Home" goods, one of which is the production of electronic door locks.

Science fiction from films is clearly becoming a reality; certainly, the imagination and ingenuity displayed by writers and filmmakers may be what pushes scientists to research and bring that vision into reality.

Biometric technology has a bright future. This confirms that the most tempestuous and impossible visions of filmmakers in the early 2000s or the 1980s are not the future; rather, they are becoming normal in everyday life.