Back To The Future: The Future Is Now!

What did you think 2015 would look like in 1989? Shinier, faster, less confined by the constraints of gravity? Personally- and I’ve got to say, I’m pretty disappointed by this- I thought it would be more like Barbarella, like at the very least.

I remember on New Years Eve 1999 chatting to friends and a) being terrified of the Millennium Bug (not that I knew really what it was, but it was definitely going to contribute to the downfall of mankind) and b) being pretty sure Marks & Spencer would start to lead the way in clothing made from tin foil like fabrics (this seemed fairly plausible given that at the time, if I remember correctly, I was clad head-to-toe in a crushed peach and lime green velvet ensemble that made me look like a hologram).

Compared to the delights that Robert Zemeckis promised us, 2015 has proved to be a bit of a damp squib (and it’s October now so I’m not holding out much hope); people only exclusively wear metallic fabrics when donning a sauna suit, no one wears double ties, and I’ve yet to pop to the shops in a flying car. Oh Robert, Hope is in deed a cruel mistress.

Despite this, I am (uncharacteristically) inclined to look on the bright side: yes, the idea of hoverboards does sound great, but as someone who can barely skateboard, I can’t think of anything more stressful than being forced to commute on something so…dangerous! A foldable bike will do just fine thanks.

So let’s not get down about not living in a future in which transport still relies on gravity and instead, focus on some of the predictions that the film got right AND some, where we have actually managed to go one step further….

Video Calling

Back to the Future Part II (BTTF2), is riddled with platforms that bare a strong resemblance to Skype or FaceTime. At one point, Marty even gets fired by his boss via one of these devices; I suppose that’s better than being dumped by text, except we have emojis now and they’re really good at getting your point across.

As it stands in 2015, we have pretty much nailed the video communication depicted in BTTF2; and not only have we nailed it, but we’ve also taken it one step further by developing real-time translation software that lets people hold live video conversations in different languages.

Wearable devices

In one scene, Doc Brown drives around in the DeLorean wearing some rather fetching silver wraparounds. These are supposed to connect to various cameras around the car and provide him with real-time information about his surroundings. Pre Google Glass, I would have definitely said that Robert Zemeckis was way off base about the resurgence of wraparounds. Back in 1989 (when such sartorial choices were simply never questioned) he wasn’t to know that in 2015, purveyors of such hideous eye-ware would be vilified and shunned in the streets and that consequently the wraparound, would die a just and timely death in the mid to late 90’s (Younger readers fortunate enough to not know what I’m talking about should reference Bono and the “Ugly One” from Nsync)

Oh but wait, then there’s Google Glass. In 2013, inventors at Google HQ thought it would be fun to try and make the world look like prize idiots for a cool £1,000.

Unfortunately, due to the world’s reluctance to resemble Bono, poor old Google Glass never really took off and on January 15th 2015, Google announced that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype but “remained committed to the development of the product”. No but Google, we’d really rather you didn’t.

On the other hand, the thing that has taken off is the device that looks like an iPhone that Doc Brown uses to get extra information about his surroundings. The good news here is, that not only have we mastered this (hello smartphones), we’ve also taken it a big step further and created mobile phones that give us access to basically all of humanity’s knowledge, any time we want. Also, unless you’re completely insane, they bare no resemblance to Bono whatsoever.

Last week, screenwriter and co-producer of the BTTF trilogy, Bob Gale, admitted to The Hollywood Reporter:

“The fact that everyone can have one device that’s a computer, that’s a camera, that’s a recording device, that’s a calculator, that’s a flashlight … we didn’t think of that,”

Fingerprint scanners

As someone who is profoundly suspicious of biometrics, I have to say that this is one aspect of the movie that I really could have done without becoming reality. In BTTF2’s 2015, you can pay for a cab simply by scanning your fingerprint and while we’re not quite thereyet, if you have Apple Pay, you can pay for something simply by tapping the fingerprint reader on your iPhone.

Now, as someone who has watched just the odd hour or two of BBC day time TV, I know from shows such as Fake Britain and Watchdog, to be uniquely terrified of credit card fraud. Even if you think someone hasn’t stolen your credit card details, they have. Even if you’re fairly certain that your local cashpoint is safe to use, you should know that it’s actually been hacked by your local credit card fraud gang. As for using contactless, don’t even get me started.

Anyway my deep-seated neurosis aside, the point is, it looks like fingerprint technology is here to stay. I mean the fact that shining beacon of progression, Scandinavia, is even CONSIDERING moving towards a cashless society, means that I probably need to ignore Dominic Littlewood’s words of “warning” and just…get over it.

Incidentally, did you know that scientists have even worked out how to detect what we’ve recently eaten from monitoring our fingerprints? And there was me thinking that was what Instagram was for, idiot.

Drones

OK, so while we don’t have drones for such mundane activities such as dog-walking like they do in BTTF2, we do have flying robots that are able to capture news footage, monitor disease, fire weapons, and plant trees, which is something that Gale confesses he and the BTTF team never dreamt would be possible:

“The fact that we have drones that can take news pictures — now that was just a joke,” he said. “We weren’t seriously thinking about how that technology would work, but wow.”

TV screens

This one’s a bit of a mixed bag; while the movie correctly predicted flat sceen TVs and 3D cinema, I think it underestimated just how pervasive these technologies would actually become.

To be fair, bearing in mind that in 1989 it was the height of sophistication to house your TV in it’s own piece of furniture, viewers of BTTF2 would have definitely thought that the TV screens depicted in the movie were unthinkable. But in actual fact they got it right.

Flat screen TVs are the norm these days; even my 91-year-old granddad has one to rival his local Whetherspoon on a match day. What isn’t the norm (yet) though are foldable TVs; TVs that you roll up, sling under your arm and take to your mate’s house- like a boom box in the 80’s but more…foldable. Brands such as LG have even invented a TV so thin and light you can peel it off the wall and only needs to held up with magnets; and since the discovery of graphene, it’s highly likely that foldable tablets will be hitting the market soon. I reckon Marty would have been totally down with that.

And finally, Self-lacing sneakers

Yes, these actually exist though they’re more gimmick than practical footwear (crocs they are not) Designed by Tinker Hatfield, the Nike Air Mag was created to embody a futuristic silhouette that Hatfield believed would be popular in 2015. In a way he wasn’t wrong; in 2006 BTTF fans started an online petition asking for a real life version of the shoes. Consequently, Hatfield teamed up with footwear innovator Tiffany Beers and together they began to build the Nike MAG from scratch. Finally, after much anticipation, in 2011, 1500 pairs of the trainers were released on eBay with proceeds being dedicated to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s disease.

In the lead up to this year’s Back To The Future Day, there has been much speculation that Nike will be releasing the MAG 2015 today AND that they might even feature the elusive Power Laces. But don’t get your hopes up; in 2011, bids for the shoes reached $10,000 and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to pick up a pair on the high street any time soon. Oh well, I always find that Velcro shoes are pretty quick to put on, and let’s face it- there’s nothing speedier (nor more demeaning) than a Croc.

So that’s it, 6 things BTTF2 accurately predicted for 2015- some big and some small but all round pretty cool I’d say. I guess deep down though, none of us will be truly satisfied until we can buy a hoverboard in Argos. There’s just no pleasing some people.

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