How Back To The Future II predicted the future

"Roads, where we're going we don't need roads." It's one of the opening quotes in Back To The Future II, but how far are we away from some of the things Robert Zemeckis and his team predicted?

Here we pick apart the classic film starring Michael J Fox set in 2015 to see what it got right already and what we can only but hope for in 5 years time.

Right so far

There are plenty of things in the film that the scriptwriter, Bob Gale, got right. Here they are:

Augmented reality


In the film Doc Brown uses a device that basically overlays information about people as they walk along, a cross between a digital binocular and a mobile phone. The interesting thing is that it is not half as advanced as some of the stuff we've already seen.

Pepsi Perfect


You're either a Coke person or a Pepsi person, but the idea of drink appearing out of the bar without anyone doing anything is already possible, not from Pepsi, but Coca Cola. In 2009 it created a drinks machine that could deliver you over 100 different drinks at the press of a button. Perfect.

Games where you are the controller


"You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy", a young Elijah Wood tells his mate after Marty McFly shows them how to use an arcade machine in the Café 80s. While we don't see the toy they are talking about, Project Natal is already showing that we will become the controller in the future. It might not be out yet, but in 5 years time we'll no doubt be on the 5th generation model.

Mobile payments


"Save the clock tower" says a dude trying to raise money in Hill Valley town square. He then pulls out a mobile device that only requires a fingerprint to process the payment. While we aren't there yet on the fingerprint for payments we are just about to see Square and Mophie launch dongles for the iPhone, that would allow anyone to take credit card payments on the go.

Home Automation


Jennifer is taken home to Hilldale by the police to her future home. On walking through the front door, the home welcomes her and turns on the lights by voice command. Home automation systems like Alert Me are already in the home, with future concepts being shown that would allow you to manage most of your home's heating, lighting and power needs via a touchscreen console or phone. Voice recognition is unlikely to be that far off.

6-channel TV


Marty McFly junior (Michael J Fox's son, played by Michael J Fox) comes home and turns on the TV. Rather than just watch the one channel, the TV in question can manage six channels at once. Toshiba's Cell TV due out in the UK later this year already boasts the processing power to do 6 HD channels at once.

Intelligent cookers


Forgetting that random tree-like fruit bowl that appears from the ceiling in the kitchen of the McFly homestead, in the background you can see a cooking gadget called the Master Cook. Presumably a cooker that works for you, you can already get a number of microwaves that know how to cook food and adjust temperatures accordingly.

Video calling on your TV


Not really possible until CES this year when Panasonic and LG both announced Skype-enabled televisions. A month later and Samsung is now offering the technology on its tellies too. Fast forward 5 years and it will be a defacto standard.

Home payments via credit card

Marty needs to pay Needles, but he is at home. No problem - he gets out his brief case and makes a transfer via his credit card. See Square and Mophie above for why this is possible.

Social networking


Marty McFly might be getting fired, but that doesn't stop the video screen telling him what his boss likes, dislikes, where he went to college and other gems of information. LinkedIn anyone? 

Still waiting

Rubbish as fuel


Doc Brown turns up in 1986 and starts stuffing rubbish into Mr Fusion. A can of beer and a banana skin are all that is needed to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour. People have been using waste cooking oil as bio-diesel and companies might be experimenting with bio-fuels at the moment, we are a long way off neat rubbish at the moment.

Flying cars

Crackpot inventors already have them, but the flying car isn't anywhere near becoming mainstream just yet. Most cars still don't come with an AUX socket for your MP3 player as standard.

Floating signs


With floating cars, comes the need for floating signs. It is possible, but unlikely by 2015.

Auto fitting clothes


Those famous Nike boots that auto-fit Marty, or the jacket that dries itself are still flights of fancy, but technology in clothes is getting more advanced. Materials that let you control your MP3 player are already available and have been for a number of years.

Robotic petrol stations


In New Jersey it's the law that an attendant has to serve you in a petrol station, unfortunately none of them are robotic (they just act like that sometimes). In 2015, according to Back To The Future II, Texaco will be serving you as long as you are prepared to "Trust your car to the system with the star".

Holographic Cinema


2010's cinema goer is only just getting its head around HD 3D, let alone Jaws 19 in holographic glory. Still it's close. It's unclear, however, whether or not the writers were thinking holographic "help me Obe-Wan Kenobi" or more like Avatar in 3D when they imagined up the Marty about to be munched by a giant shark scene.

Hoverboards


Yes we know this is the one that you want the most, and while the Maglev train in Shanghai uses a similar technique it's not going to be released by Mattel any time soon. Cue disappointment everywhere.

Food hydrator


You look at the Pizza Hut pizza Marty's parents bring around for dinner and you think to yourself that's not going to cut it, then she puts it in the Black & Decker Hydrator and a massive pizza appears seconds later. Even if this does become a breakthrough in 2015 we're not sure we would want to be eating it, are you?

Conclusions

Released into the cinemas in 1989, Back To The Future II amazingly predicted a lot of stuff that is just starting to surface now. There's still 5 years to go meaning some of this list still has time to come true. While that's unlikely to be the case for the flying car, as for auto-fitting clothes or even the hoverboard, who knows?

Images Copyright Universal Pictures 2010. 

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