The Incredible Manifestation of 12 Bizarre Back to the Future II Tech Trends We Use Today
It’s the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, and the second movie in the series gave viewers in the 1980s a glimpse of what they could expect in 2015. Seeing that it’s currently 2015, we wanted to take a look at some of the tech featured in that quick trip forward in time and see how close they came to what’s available today.
We saw quite a bit of tech in the small amount of time that Marty (played by Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown, aka Doc (portrayed by Christopher Lloyd) spent in 2015. We also got a glimpse at fashion and a peek at some interesting wearable items. Here are some of the highlights and how it stacks up to the tech we have today:
- Using Compost as Fuel: The first look we get at the future is when Doc arrives in 1989 and uses compost to fuel his time-travelling DeLorean.
- Now: We’re not at the point where compost is a viable alternative to gas, but we do have electric cars that require no fuel at all, just a power source to get some juice.
- Flying Self-Driving Cars: Marty and Doc arrive in the future on October 21, 2015, and we see them flying through the sky in their trusty DeLorean. Lights illuminate the sky forming traffic lanes. At one point, the car drives itself.
- Now: So we haven’t mastered flying cars, but we’re a lot closer to a future filled with autonomous vehicles. Some cars on the road have autonomous features such as self-parking. Google has a few autonomous cars driving near its headquarters, a self-driving Audi A7 was the first car to drive successfully across the country this year, and Daimler unveiled a self-driving truck.
- Automated Custom Fit Clothing: When Marty gets dressed in the future; he doesn’t have to do much. He simply presses a button, and the clothing adjusts to fit his body perfectly, and his shoes lace-up automatically. That would make getting ready in the morning infinitely easier.
- Now: This is a take on wearables that we haven’t quite mastered yet. Our clothing tech offers ways to charge devices, fitness wear that measures activity and heart rate, and dresses that react to sound and eye movements. Clothes that automatically fit themselves haven’t arrived yet.
- Beeping Watch: Doc wears a watch that alerts him at a specific time.
- Now: Our tech watches do a lot more. Before the Apple Watch, there were smart watches that could let you take phone calls, display text messages, beep calendar alerts, and track fitness.
- 3D Hologram Advertisements: Marty gets a frightful look at what movie advertisements have become when a 3D hologram of Jaws reaches out from the theater sign to take a bite out of him.
- Now: Although Shark Week is all the rage; Jaws 19 still hasn’t been made. Holograms aren’t jumping out at us on the street though 3D movies have come a long way. We are starting to see more innovations with holograms. Earlier this year, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 and HoloLens, a 3D holographic experience that can simulate landing on Mars, medical lessons, and more. We even held our first virtual reality (VR) hackathon where developers built apps utilizing Samsung Gear VR devices.
- Interactive Video Games: Stepping into a nostalgic 80s café, Marty instantly feels at home when he sees a video game. The kids are appalled at Marty, noting that only babies play games using their hands.
- Now: Ok, we still use controllers to play video games, but that’s not the only the way. Thanks to Kinect and Wii, video games are a lot more interactive now. This year, we started to see what it would be like to play VR video games.
- Floating Fast on a Hoverboard: Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes from Back to the Future II is when Marty steps on a Hoverboard to get away from Griff (Biff’s grandson).
- Now: We instantly knew having a device like that would be amazing. A skateboard that can fly? Sign us up! Though not in mass production, we do have an actual Hoverboard. Lexus created a model that uses superconductors and magnets to lift off the ground.
- A Thumbprint is the Key to Your Home and Your Identity: Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, joins the trip to 2015 and discovers her fingerprint unlocks many things. While passed out on the side of the street, police scan her fingerprint to identify her. Based on that information they take her home, where her fingerprint is used to unlock the door. Upon entering, a voice welcomes her home by name.
- Now: In addition to using a fingerprint to unlock an iPhone or iPad, it’s also being used in connected home apps. Biometric readers are being used as part of keyless locks. While there aren’t a lot of solutions currently available that talk to you when you enter the home, there are some strides being made in the area. The Amazon Echo, an Internet of Things-type assistant, uses far-field voice recognition to hear you from across the room. That said, voice recognition apps are popular in the connected home, allowing us to say commands to do things like turn on the TV, lights, and more.
- Sensor Controlled Lighting: When Jennifer walks in the door the lights automatically turn on.
- Now: We’ve come a long way since the days of the Clapper. Motion detection has been around for at least 30 years. In the past few years, sensors have made motion detection a lot more sophisticated. At the AT&T Developer Summit this year, a lot of apps were created around home security and a major feature highlight controlled the lights using sensors and motion detection. When you walk in the house, the lights activate. There were also tons of apps that let you control lighting with your voice or an app.
- Voice Control Multi-Screen TV: In the 2015 of Back to the Future II, big screen TVs could display multiple shows simultaneously and use your voice to channel surf.
- Now: We still have big screen TVs (think 80-inch displays) and the resolution is a lot better than what we saw in the movie. Today’s TVs are curved and available in Ultra HD. Our TVs are also smart: they connect to the Internet, have dedicated apps and games, serve up video on demand, integrate social media, and you can even use a Smart Pen to write on them. Although we have advanced past picture in picture to multiple show viewing on one television screen, we can’t verbally call up 9 shows to watch quite yet.
- Payment Machines at Home: The 2015 version of Marty gets into trouble when he buys into a scheme by scanning his credit card into a rather larger machine at home. The receipt for the transaction comes out of the wall (fax machine style) from a device that resembles a portable scanner.
- Now: The closest we have to something like this is much more elegant: Square. The credit card processing device is a small square that attaches to a tablet or smartphone and accepts payments. While similar, this is a business solution and most of us aren’t using Square to buy things at home. We can do that with our computer, phone, or tablet and get a receipt emailed or texted to us.
- Drone Dog Walker: Don’t have time to walk the dog? In Back to the Future II, a drone was an ideal stand-in. You presumably controlled the drone and saw the dog’s path using a display in your home.
- Now: We have drones, but they’re not used to walk dogs. Instead, they’re used to record videos, deliver packages, in the military, and more. This is an area with tons of opportunities for developers to create some incredible apps.
What were your favorite Back to the Future II tech trends and how would you like to see them being used today?