9 bits of scary Terminator tech that already exist

"Ah-da-da-dah, like this in the background. What is it with you?"
"Ah-da-da-dah, like this in the background. What is it with you?"

If the Terminator Salvation timeline is correct, robots will be ruling the world by 2018.

What director McG and the rest of his merry crew of robot technicians fail to tell you, however, is that Terminator technology is already part of the here and the now, as TechRadar found out…

1. Military machines

Where would the Terminator franchise be without its unstoppable killing machines? Roaming what's left of Earth, terminating or harvesting every human that they see. Kyle Reese explains it best in the first movie when he describes the robots as: "Hunter-Killers. Aerial and ground patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put in camps for orderly disposal."

Terminator salvation t-600

KILLER ROBOT: The T-600 makes its debut in Terminator Salvation

Armies around the world are taking the idea of killer robots and have been using them to best effect in a number of wars. One kind, going under the moniker of Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), was tried out in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 to good effect.

The robots look similar to a Hunter Killer Tank - a familiar site in the Terminator franchise - and are radio-controlled. Most importantly, they are armed and very dangerous – attached to the machine is a M240B machine gun

MAARS has the purpose of helping injured soldiers out of a battle situation – kind of like having a strapped Metal Mickey as a wingman. Impressive and a little scary as it is, MAARS isn't autonomous, but that doesn't mean that there are robots out there that can't think for themselves…

2. Autonomous robots

There are a number of free-thinking robots around at the moment, from the mean and moody to the darn right helpful. Thankfully, instead of killing people, they actually serve a purpose, helping us in their own little way.

Terminator t-600

METAL HEAD: The autonomous T-800 sans Arnold Schwarzenegger's skin

The most famous autonomous bot of recent times was the Mars Rover. This robot has the ability to drive round terrain on its own using stereo cameras and 3D mapping software to figure out what is around it, mapping its own safe path to traverse over the Martian landscape.

This kind of technology is being used more and more, with robots like the Spyder LB1200 even cutting your grass for you, without you having to lift a finger.

Even robot toys are getting that little bit more sophisticated. For just $80, you can have yourself a WowWee Tri-Bot toy, which you can program to go wherever you want it to, or put it into Free Roam mode and let it think for itself.

3. Computer AI

Computers thinking like humans are just around the corner, according to many a futurologist. If they advance as they are doing then by 2020 we should see free-thinking computers available in our local Tesco – which would make a change from the current drones at the checkout.

For this to happen, though, computers will have to pass the Turing Test, which is based around a number of questions that are meant to differentiate robots from humans. It looks likely that one of the first companies to reach true artificial intelligence with its software programs could well be Google.

Google co-founder Larry Page has been quoted as saying: "The ultimate search engine will understand everything in the world." If this isn't eerily close to what Skynet becomes in the Terminator movies, then we don't know what is.

Terminator ai

DO THE ROBOT: Artificial intelligence in the Terminator franchise leads to very bad things

But before we worry that Google is to become self-aware and start revolting against the very people that use it, the search engine has to get smarter. With the arrival of Bing by Microsoft and Wolfram Alpha, search on the internet is entering its semantic stage – something that would make Cyberdyne Systems, the creators of the genesis of Skynet, proud.

4. Real-life Cyberdyne Systems

Cyberdyne Systems, the company behind the inception robots in the Terminator saga, is alive and kicking in the real world but it goes under the rather unassuming name of Honda. That's right, the makers of every boy racers' favourite car, the Honda Civic, is also one of the world's biggest manufacturer of robots.

The star of Honda's robot army is ASIMO, an acronym of Advanced Step in Innovative MObility. It may not have the six-foot plus stature of a T-800 – it's four foot three and walks with a stoop like your granny – but it's a robot nonetheless.

ASIMO robot - honda

ASIMO A-GO: Made by Honda (image copyright: Honda Motor Co)

The latest re-boot of ASIMO happened in 2004, with the robot now able to recognise gestures, objects, environment, sounds and most importantly faces. The robots are still very limited at the moment, costing up $1 million to manufacture. So don't expect one knocking on your door asking if you know Sarah Connor anytime soon.

The latest models can also be jacked up to the internet. This, according to Honda, is so that ASIMO can relay up-to-date weather information and the like. But TechRadar knows the real reason: you know, like the way Terminators are hooked into Skynet? Paranoid, us?

5. Human-machine hybrids

It seems the latest trend in this technology orientated world we live in is cyborg modification. In 2009, we have had a number of incidents of normal people modifying themselves to become one with the robot world.

One man, fed up with his fake eye, implanted an infrared one into the socket, and recently an artist exchanged her fake eye for one with a camera attached.

Perhaps the closest things us mere mortals have got to becoming real-life terminators, however, is the development of a body suit by a Japanese company. The company's name, obviously, is Cyberdyne. But instead of making robots, they make robo-suits.

HAL, as realised by cyberdyne

SUITS YOU: HAL makes you strong (image copyright: Cyberdyne Inc)

Titled HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) the suit gives whoever wears it the power of around 10 men. Perfect for those who want to lift heavy machinery, or throw a little brat by the name of John Connor around like a rag doll.

Currently only 400 have been made and one suit will set you back $4,200 US dollars - a small price to pay for showing all those gym bunnies who really is boss.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.