A real world tractor beam has been developed and used by physicists to move glass particles.
The tractor beam, which uses a single laser beam, was able to move tiny glass particles at up to 20 centimetres in distance. The beam both attracted and repelled the particles which were 0.2 millimetres in size.
The scientists at the Australian National University say the technique can be scaled up allowing larger object movements, potentially. They suggest it could be used to remove polluting particles or even pick up specimens in a lab scenario. We imagine using this in surgery to remove objects without touching the body itself could be a huge breakthrough in medical practise.
So while this isn't quite at the scale of tractor beams from Star Wars or Star Trek it is promising. This example is the record for the furthest anything has been moved by a tractor beam so far. Also, unlike previous attempts, this works outside of a vacuum or water situation.
This also creates exciting potential for levitation, like hoverboards and gravity guns, since the beams can be used to hold particles in mid-air. How does it work exactly? Here's the science according to IBTimes: "The energy of the laser superheats the gold-coated particles and the air around them, creating hot spots in the surface of the particle. Air particles colliding with these heat up and shoot away from the surface, causing the particle to recoil, in the opposite direction. By making the back of the particle hotter than its front, it can be made to move against the light flow or vice versa."
While this isn't going to move large objects anytime soon the science is paving the way forward for the tractor beams we could only dream of in science fiction until now.