How well did Back To The Future do in actually predicting the future?
While Back to the Future is clearly an icon the 80’s, how good a job did Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale and their team do in actually predicting the future?
In honor of 10/21/15, the date Marty, Doc Brown and Jennifer go forward in Back to the Future II, I thought it only appropriate to explore this question in detail.
The exercise itself brought me back — to university media coding classes that is. Not to be confused with “coding” as we know it today, media coding involves the systematic evaluation of communications with the intent of uncovering particular traits and behaviors.
Performing this task was relatively easy given multiple networks broadcast the films over the weekend. I implored the same methodology I once did recording visual and verbal references to technological advances.
Below is a partial list of my findings along with examples of the technologies that have since materialized since the film was first released. I also include a list of the ones that we haven’t quite seen yet.
Let’s start with the predictions that exist…
1. Power Laces
Nike auctioned off 1,500 special edition Marty McFly Air Mag shoes in 2011 that went for $8,750 pair. However, they lacked perhaps the most memorable feature, the power laces. That said, Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield confirmed in January ’15 that the power lace feature would be available in models this year and a recent leak indicates we may see them on 10/21/15.
2. Hover Boards
While Mattel released a product in 2012 that was primarily a marketing stunt, the best examples of the technology I’ve seen have been Lexus’ Slide and another from a Canadian company called Hendo, a concept project originally conceived on Kickstarter. Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk helped to design the Hendo which is scheduled to unveil its Hendo 2.0 model on 10/21/15
3. HOD Wearables
As the McFly family sits around the dinner table, Marty’s kids are entirely consumed by wearable headsets much like we are today with our cell phones. With VR and augmented reality headsets like Oculus, Samsung Gear and Hololens, this is not an unforeseeable scenario in the near future. After all, the technology is here.
4. News Drones
Right after Biff and his Mad Max punks fly through the courthouse windows we see Doc Brown view them through his glass-hole device but look closer and you’ll see a USA Today news drone. Not a bad prediction considering in January, CNN was the first network to ink a deal with the FAA to allow them to use of drones for journalism.
5. The Connected Home
“Lights on, nature views, turn on channels 32, 64 and 119." When Marty Junior walks into their Hill Valley home, voice recognition is used to activate his surrounding. The rise of IoT and connected home technology is quickly making this scenario a reality. Nest, Amazon’s Echo, Smart TVs and Apple’s home kit are just a few of the technologies available today that were featured in some form in BTF’s future home. Even hydroponic gardens seem to be all the rage as consumers participate in the Urban Gardening trend.
6. Predictive Weather (“to the tick”)
In the film, Doc Brown via an alert on his wearable device is notified “to the tick” as he puts it, when its about to rain. While our forecasts are not quite that accurate, the democratization of weather forecasts from what we experienced in the 1980’s has improved dramatically. Take apps like The Weather Channel, Accu-Weather and my favorite, Dark Sky many of which have applications built for devices like the Apple Watch.
7. Fingerprint Authentication
Jennifer has a tough time getting in and out of the house in the future. “Put your thumb on the metal plate” Doc Brown exclaims. Thumb print technology has been around for a while but not until recently has it been utilized for mass convenience in operating systems like iOS and Android. Enabling everything from personalized mobile phone security to payment technologies, this form of authentication is quickly becoming the norm and was already surfacing as early as 2013. Some of you may remember companies like Kevo or UniKey hitting the mainstream via exposure on Shark Tank.
8. Video Phone Calls
Marty gets fired via video call when he tries to skim a little off the top with his pal Needles. Needless to say, this is a technology that has been brought to us in mass via Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangout and others. Strangely enough however, Zemeckis still saw the need to connect them to a fax machine. They were in the internet pre-email days so you can’t fault them for that.
9. Pepsi Perfect
Did Zemeckis have some CPG-innovation vision involving the evolution of Tab? While not perfect, we have seen quite the evolution in diet soft drinks since 1989. I remember drinking Tab, NoCal and other saccharin infused drinks. Today we have Pepsi Max and Coke Zero.
10. Cubs Win World Series?
All Ihave to say here is if the cubs do win the world series they better be thinking hard about holographic projections or i’ll be incredibly disappointed.
What about the innovations we haven’t seen quite yet…
Not a reality per se but concept cars flying cars like the Terrafuga TF-X point to that could be closer than we think FAA regulations aside of course
While we’ve got food dehydrators for the beef jerky set available at places like Cabella’s no luck in Grandma pocketing a 16" pizza and rehydrating it at home. Sorry latch-key kids.
Unless you count Willie Nelson’s bio-fuel aptly named BioWillie, it’s unlikely we’ll see a Mr Fusion contraption that allows us to turn our old Miller Lites into fuel.
Auto Dry & Auto Fit Clothing
I saw some interesting innovations not long ago at MIT’s Emerging Media Lab where clothing changed form based on the wearers biometrics but vertically challenged guys like me (and Michael J Fox) are still stuck buying our suits from custom tailors from Hong Kong.
1-hour Rejuvenation Centers
Doc Brown disguises himself at the beginning of BTFII in fear that Marty won’t recognize his younger self. One could say spa treatment advancements and plastic surgery methods have come a long way but 1-hour rejuvenation centers are still isolated to disturbing reality shows today.
Robotic Gas Stations
I love this vision of the Texaco robot gas station. Elon Musk’s new Tesla is slated to have a robotic charging arm but we’re not fully automated at the pump station just yet.
Stun guns don’t count. No luck here.
The abolishment of all lawyers