For generations, kids gawked at the futuristic universe of 2015 depicted by Robert Zemeckis in his 1989 childhood classic, Back to the Future II.
Zemeckis promised a world of flying cars, self-tying shoes and pre-planned weather. While those are still a distant fantasy, Zemeckis was surprisingly accurate about some advances in technology.
Here’s our list of what Zemeckis got right about 2015 and what he got very, very wrong.
What predictions came true?
1. Biometric technology
At several points during the film, we see fingerprint technology used to open doors and for payment instead of credit cards. While biometrics might still seem like a sci-fi fantasy to some, it’s a growing area of technology set to expand even more this year.
Samsung bought out fingerprint locks a while ago, so you can get all space age for just £234. You might already be using something similar if you have an iPhone, which has a TouchID fingerprint identity sensor.
2. Video communication
In one scene in the McFly house, we see the family having face-to-face conversations through their TV. Hang on, that sounds remarkably like video calls like FaceTime, doesn’t it? Yes, this one came true.
3. Flat-screen TVs mounted on walls
By the late 2000s CRT display televisions were in most houses, they were followed by LCD or plasma flat-panel sets which are now the norm, just like in the film. And yeah, obviously we can mount them on walls. Spookily accurate.
4. Video glasses
At the future McFly dinner table, Marty Junior and Marlene wear video glasses which appear to have the capability to make and receive phone calls. You’re probably aware of Google Glass, and more recently Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens, all of which can be used to call, text, email and so much more.
The Oculus Rift glasses feature see-through holographic lenses and spatial sound so users can views, hear and interact with holograms. Which is actually more advanced than Zemeckis’s predictions.
5. Hands-free video games
Marty visits an 80s-themed cafe, where he shows two young kids how to play a shooting game called the Wild Gunman. One of the kids sneers: “You use your hands?! That’s like a baby’s toy!” In the decades since, we’ve seen the Eyetoy, Playstation Eye, Xbox 360 and Kinect lead the way in hands-free gaming.
What are we still missing?
Despite being possibly the coolest invention of Back to the Future’s version of 2015, no one has successfully brought hoverboard technology to the mass market yet.
The closest thing to the insanely cool hoverboard Marty flies around on in Back to the Future is the Hendo Hover, the company who produced this board.
It’s pretty cool, even if it doesn’t have the capacity to escape a bunch of angry punks. The Hendo Hover can only be used on certain surfaces because it uses magnets to ‘levitate’.
2. Flying cars
We haven’t quite done away with wheels and roads yet, but the closest things we’ve got to the flying cars seen in BTTF are the Terrafugia Transition, a small aeroplane with four wheels and foldable wings and the AeroMobil 3.0 (below).
The latter can be used on the road, but also transforms into a plane with a top speed of 100mph. Not exactly the same as the hovering cars we pined after in BTTF, but it’s still pretty awesome. Check it out in the video above
3. Weather control
In BTTF’s version of 2015, weather is planned in advance and controlled by the US Weather Service – a institute Doc Brown comments is ‘more efficient than the Post Office’ (which isn’t exactly difficult, amirite?). Although we’ve seen some advances in scientists’ ability to alter weather conditions, we’re nowhere near the sophisticated system of weather planning seen in the film. Boo. We definitely need this, though. Hurry up please, scientists of the world.
4. Food Hydrators
The McFlys happily tuck into a pizza made by the Black & Decker Hydrator, a device which turns a tiny, shrivelled little pizza into a real, life-sized one. It was probably considered amazingly cool at the time, but in the real 2015 3D printed food is a reality. A 3D printer has even been created to print pizza for astronauts on space missions, which you can check out in the video below.
5. Self-tying shoes
Luckily for us, the hideous fashion seen in BTTF’s version of 2015 hasn’t materialised (yet). While there’s no demand for Biff’s tin helmet, colour-changing hats or auto-adjusting jackets, fans of the film have never quite let go of the self-tying Nikes worn by Marty. Nike did release a pretty good replica of the shoes back in 2011, but they lacked the power laces. However, rumours have been a-flying that Nike is set to release a self-tying pair this year.
In the meantime a Canadian company has created a shoe called Powerlace with a hands-free auto-lace system, read more about it here.
What sort of technology do you think we'll be using 20 years from now in 2035? Let us know in the Comments below.