From Sci-Fi Books to Sci-Fi Movies to Real Technology

14 May 2012

An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result; this is in a nutshell the plot of ‘A Scanner Darkly’, a book by Philip K. Dick published in 1977.

 In the novel, narcotics officers wear ‘Scramble Suits’ to disguise their appearance. In the book Dick explains what is a Scramble Suit and how the technology was created.

 "Now you will notice," the Lions Club host said, "that you can barely see this individual... because he is wearing what is called a scramble suit...”

 “The scramble suit was an invention of the Bell laboratories, conjured up by accident by an employee named S. A. Powers... Basically, his design consisted of a multifaceted quartz lens hooked up to a million and a half physiognomic fraction-representations of various people: men and women, children, with every variant encoded and then projected outward in all directions equally onto a superthin shroudlike membrane large enough to fit around an average human.”

 “In any case, the wearer of a scramble suit was Everyman and in every combination (up to combinations of a million and a half sub-bits) during the course of each hour. Hence, any description of him - or her - was meaningless.”

Almost four decades after the book was published, in 2006 director Richard Linklater created an animated movie using interpolated rotoscoping technique. And less than a decade after that happened Kyle McDonald created a real Scramble Suit that can effectively hide the identity of the wearers making it impossible to recognize or identify them.



Identity and everything involving it has always fascinated and captured the imagination of artists, writers, filmmakers and lately designers, programmers and coders. They envision ways to transform it, manipulate it, disguise it and validate it.