Did they get it right? Futurists look at how ‘Back to the Future, Part II’ portrayed 2015

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(Jan. 1, 2015) – 2015 has arrived.

Will Hollywood give us any indication of what to expect?

“Back to the Future, Part II” was released in 1989. The sequel to “Back to the Future” took Marty McFly and friends to the year 2015. Viewers saw all kinds of futuristic developments: hoverboards, 3-D movies, fusion energy, video conferencing and more.

But did the film get it right?

Newsweek interviewed several futurists to find out how well “Back to the Future, Part II” predicted the technology of 2015.

Here’s a great breakdown of the article from WTIC:

Right:

  • Pollution. Anne Lise Kjaer, the founder of a trend forecasting agency, remembered that the movie predicted a very polluted future.
  • Dehydrated food. Several of the futurists said that the dehydrated pizza Marty eats isn’t so far off; not only do camping stores and space museums offer dehydrated food, but we also have microwaveable dinners.
  • Flat screen TVs. Most of the futurists noted the huge, wall-sized TVs depicted in the film as being one of the best predictions.
  • Wearabes. As Kjaer mentioned, “2014 was the year of wearables.” In the movie there are video glasses, which aren’t so far off from Google Glass.
  • Skype. Both video chatting and interacting with several screens by voice were depicted in the film. There is also a character that takes pictures of everything with an “iPhone-style camera,” as Kjaer noticed.
  • Biometrics. Michael Rogers, an author and futurist-in-residence for the New York Times, noted three things that the film got right: “biometrics, large screen home displays, video telephone calls.” In regards to biometrics, thumb print IDs were depicted as normal, and of course with the latest Apple products that is a reality.
  • 3-D movies. In the movie, Glen Hiemstra, a futurist, noticed a promo for “Jaws 3-D.” Of course, 3-D movies are quite ubiquitous these days.
  • Gesture-based computing. Hiemstra also remembered a scene when Marty goes to a retro cafe and kids are playing video games. However, when he goes to pick up a controller, the kids ask what he’s doing. Xbox Kinnect and PlayStation Move are just two examples of this technology.
  • The move to big cities. It may not be an item, but on a more societal-trend front Hiemstra saw a pretty accurate prediction: that affluent families would move towards cities and away from suburbs. “Partway through the film, they go out to Marty’s house, where he lives,” Hiemstra recalled for Newsweek. “Young Marty is very excited because they live in Hillsdale, because that was the upscale fancy place to live in the old days. But when he gets there, he finds out it’s a slum. And it’s really fallen on economic hard times and the sign in the entrance is all dilapidated.”

Wrong:

  • Hoverboards. Rogers rightly says that hoverboards are essentially “anti-gravity technology,” and that so far we don’t even have “a complete theory of gravity.” Hiemstra did note a new company, Hendo Hoverboards, that has a magnetic repulsion hoverboard, but it’s not quite the same thing.
  • Fax machines. While we still use fax machines, they aren’t as popular as they once were now that we have scanners, emails and the Internet.
  • Phone booths. You may still be able to find one of these relics in a big city, but cell phones have made phone booths obsolete. The movie showed them on every corner.
  • Self-lacing shoes. Pretty self explanatory.
  • Fusion energy. Ross Dawson, the founder of Future Exploration Network and author of a book that predicted social networks, remembered a fusion device used in the film that created infinite energy from plutonium. That would be a pretty great alternative energy to have, but it’s not on the books yet.
  • Lawyers. Hiemstra remembered that in the film it was mentioned that lawyers had been abolished. If anything, the profession has only grown since 1985.
  • Plastic surgery. The film showed rejuvenation face masks that allowed Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd, to look young again. Also, Biff, played by Thomas Wilson, had bionic implants. We’ve come a long way in changing a person’s image, but not that far.

Halfway right:

  • Drones. We have them everywhere, even as children’s toys, but we don’t have drones that can walk a dog yet.
  • Holographic billboard. We obviously have moving and television billboards, and holographs have come a long way in recent years–we’re looking at you, Tupac–but we don’t quite have holographic billboards, as Dawson noted.
  • Flying cars. “The Jetsons” and many other future-set TV shows and movies have shown flying cars as the transportation of the future. We’re nowhere near replacing our sedans and SUVs, but as Dawson noted, there are several companies working on cars that can hover. AeroMobil is one. But these cars don’t move as smoothly as is shown in the movie.

Source: Newsweek, WTIC