October 21st 2015. If you're a movie buff and that date doesn't ring a bell then for shame as tomorrow marks the day that Marty McFly arrived in the ‘future’ from 1985 and the future – as imagined by screenwriter Bob Gale – officially becomes the past. Confused yet? Well while we’ve had a number of false alarms over the years, this time the DeLorean’s flux capacitor dial doesn’t lie.
To mark this momentous occasion, we take a look back at what the movie got right – and wrong – in terms of tech predictions. From hoverboard and 3D movies to self-lacing trainers (the dream), here’s what Marty and Doc Brown thought we’d be wearing, using and doing by 2015.
Five things Back to the Future II got right
1. Video calling
While hiding in the 2015 McFly household, Jennifer – Marty’s girlfriend – witnesses ‘future’ Marty talking to his coworker Needles and his boss using video calling that closely resembles Skype. While the call doesn’t end so well for Marty, it’s possible that this scene may have proven as an early inspiration for Skype’s co-founders, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, as it would take another 14 years for the duo to invent the video messaging application.
2. Large flat screen TVs
As anyone who lived during the 1980s will tell you, TVs in 1989 were far from flat screened. How then did Bob Gale know that things would get much bigger and much flatter in the future? Well according to an interview he did with The Hollywood Reporter
, Gale just had a hunch … handy!
While some of the ‘future’ clothes in Back to the Future II
are pretty questionable – we’re looking at you Griff Tannen's gang – in general, many of the wearable devices we see in the movie are in existence today.
These include the wraparound headset – that allows the wearer to take a phone call and get real-time information about his/her surroundings – and smartwatches, that we see a number of characters, including Doc and Marlene McFly (Marty’s daughter) wearing. While Google Glass didn’t prove as successful as we had all expected, headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive should more than fill the void here and as we all know smartwatches, including Apple Watch, FitBit and Samsung Gear have been widely available for a number of years now.
More specifically, games where you’re the controller/motion gaming. The scene we’re referring to for this one is the one in the retro diner when Marty tries his hand at some old-school arcade gaming and a young Elijah Wood asks him why he’s using his hands. While the games console they’re talking about doesn’t feature in the movie, all modern consoles offer a motion gaming option, Microsoft Kinect and Xbox One and PlayStation Move.
Ok this one is sort of wishful thinking for us regular Joes, but we do know that the Hendo Hoverboard exists – in fact the world’s most famous skateboarder Tony Hawk has already taken a spin on it
– and is due to be shipped to its first 11 customers tomorrow to mark Back to the Future Day; FYI they each paid over $10,000 for the privilege. Similarly, Lexus has also gotten in on the hoverboard act with its offering, SLIDE
. Neither hoverboard features the impressive 80s style of Marty's board though.
Five things Back to the Future II got oh so wrong
1. Flying cars
Unfortunately for everyone, flying cars still aren’t a thing, and while an advanced prototype of the flying roadster, the AeroMobil 3.0
was unveiled last year, it doesn’t look like we’ll be taking to the M50 in the sky any time soon. Even more disappointing, our cars also don’t run on rubbish like the Doc’s DeLorean can get up to 88mph with a simple can of beer, a banana skin and a couple of food scraps.
2. Robotic petrol stations
Staying on the automobile theme, it’s unlikely we’ll be getting robotic petrol stations like those in 2015 Hill Valley any time soon. While there have been rumours
that a US-based company has developed a robotic fuel pump, it’s unlikely we’ll see the Huskey Corporation’s offering in our local forecourts anytime soon.
3. Pizza hydrators
It really breaks our hearts that this one doesn’t exist. We’ve got so many smart products in our homes, but we have yet to see a smart cooker to rival the McFly’s Black & Decker Hydrator. Lorraine McFly sure can hydrate a pizza …
4. Self-lacing Nikes and auto-adjusting clothes
Marty’s self-lacing Nike Airs were possible the one product every 90s kid really wanted to exist by 2015 but sadly while Nike has said the technology is under development
we haven’t seen these hit the high street just yet. Similarly, we’re sure every parent in the country would like to kit their kids out in auto-adjusting and drying jackets like Marty’s but unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will happen in our lifetime.
5. Sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator
Trouble sleeping? Unfortunately unless you’re actually from the future and Doc’s EZ Sleep has been invented you’ll have to stick with taking a pill or counting sheep like the rest of us.
Coming soon ...
1. Mobile payments
One of Marty’s first encounters in 2015 is with a man who is raising money to save the clock tower (yes again). Instead of handing over cash, he asks for Marty’s fingerprint on a mobile device to make the donation. With the introduction of services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay we could be seeing these kinds of interactions sooner rather than later.
2. Bionic implants
While unfortunately the rejuvenation clinic Doc visits during his stay in 2015 doesn’t exist, the bionic implants Griff Tannen has in the movie aren’t too far off.
According to many involved in the biotech industry, 3D printing is going to play a major part in the development of these implants.
3. Dog walking drones
We have dogs that need walking and we now have drones. It’s only a matter of time before these two meet.
4. Smart homes
With products like Nest and now Linus, homes are becoming smarter than ever and soon should be just as smart as the McFly’s 2015 pad.
Feeling nostalgic? Check out Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd chat about what they thought might be a reality by 2015: