What Back to the Future II Predicted About Tech in 2015

February 2nd, 2015

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Back to the Future II was the second film in the cult trilogy directed by Robert Zemeckis, and in many ways it portrayed the year 2015 with surprising accuracy. Considering the film was made back in 1989 when Nintendo was king and the World Wide Web had only just been invented, the film’s creators demonstrated considerable foresight with some of their predictions.

The story

Back to the Future II sees Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) journey to the year 2015, where they find a future full of weird and wonderful gadgets and technology.

Among other things, the film portrays flying cars, hoverboards, video phones, flat screen TV’s, wearable technology, biometrics, 3D films, drones, tablets, programmable homes, and hands-free gaming. With the year 2015 now upon us, let’s examine some of the predictions in more detail and see whether they’ve come to be fact or still fiction. Let’s first look at predictions that were spot on.

Wearable technology

Back to the Future II got some things exactly right. The film portrays various characters using wearable technology not dissimilar to smart watches, and headsets on which they can watch TV as well as make and receive calls. Doesn’t sound too far fetched in this day and age, does it?

In the real 2015, wearable technology is already a reality and being refined with each passing year. The Apple Watch, Google Glass, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift are all good examples of where the technology is headed.

Flat screens and tablets

Wall-mounted flat screen TVs were another prediction the filmmakers were bang on the money with. The TV screens in the film allow multiple channels to be viewed at once, and this technology is now a reality, along with the ability to simultaneously play games and watch TV.

Characters in Back to the Future II are also shown using tablet-like devices, and this is an accurate prediction of the growth of mobile and hand-held devices. In the real 2015, such devices have made video calling and conferencing a reality, and this too is depicted with accuracy in Back to the Future II.

Other spot on predictions

Another prediction that was spot on was drones. While we don’t yet use them for news gathering as was depicted in the movie, they are already being used in a number of different fields including mining, agriculture, and the military, and mini drones are even sold as children’s toys.

Smart homes also featured in Back to the Future II, with the McFly family home having programmable lights and a range of futuristic appliances. In the real 2015, smart home technology is already available to those who can afford it, with light, climate control, and security features all easily programmable at the touch of a button.

Predictions that were somewhat accurate

Along with the spot-on calls, Back to the Future II got some things sort-of-right, where the technologies they predicted exist but have yet to reach their full potential. These include biometrics, which are portrayed in the movie when Biff pays for a taxi using just his thumb print. While biometrics are available today in a range of security devices, including newer iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets, the concept of being able to pay without a mobile device is still a way off.

Another ‘almost there’ prediction is 3D, which Back to the Future II portrays as being everywhere in 2015. The reality however is that, while we do have 3D films that require special glasses to watch and 3D TVs that don’t, true 3D is still something of a work in progress.

Other predictions that haven’t quite made it include the self-lacing power shoelaces worn by Marty McFly, although Nike is currently working on a version; and hoverboards which, although a prototype has recently been produced, remain a figment of the film writer’s imagination.

Predictions that were way off

And then there were the real clunkers; the predictions that were so far off it’s almost laughable. One of those was fax machines. Back to the Future II predicted they would be everywhere in 2015, but in fact the opposite is the case, with faxes heading rapidly for the scrap heap after being superseded by SMS and emails.

Another non-starter was the “food hydrator” depicted in the McFly family home, capable of turning a dehydrated pizza into a delicious family sized meal at the touch of a button. Not only is this not a reality today, but it hardly seems likely it will ever be one.

Other tall orders include flying cars, the inferences to mind-controlled hands-free gaming, the home nuclear reactor that turns garbage into energy, and the smart clothing that adjusts itself to the wearer. All are a little hard to swallow and not to be seen anywhere yet in the real 2015.

Despite the long bow the film’s creators occasionally drew with regard to future technology, their view of 2015 was logical and well thought out overall. Many of the things they believed could happen back in 1989 have actually come to pass, and it’s perhaps for this reason that Back to the Future II remains one of the most thought-provoking and well-loved films in the trilogy.

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