With 2015 just over 500 days away, we analyse how realistic the 2015 in Back To The Future Part II was.

The future – at least director Robert Zemeckis’ idea of the future, as envisioned in 1989 – arrives, in our present space-time continuum, in 553 Earth days. That date, Oct 21, 2015, is when Back to the Future Part II is set, and the movie imagines a world of flying vehicles, hoverboards, drone dog-walkers … and in the future a lot of stuff will float, apparently.

In some cases, Zemeckis’ 2015 isn’t too far from reality. Other prognostications are just embarrassingly off. Here, we examine how likely the Back to the Future future jibes with our actual future. Takeaway: There’s still time for fax machines to make a comeback.

Hoverboard

Scene: Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses a hoverboard, a skateboard that floats above ground, to escape Griff Tannen’s henchmen.

Status for 2015: Not happening.

Early in March, a video surfaced of a supposed tech company called HUVr, in which pro skateboarder Tony Hawk was seen demonstrating a prototype of a hoverboard. Alas, it was a hoax created by comedy website Funny Or Die. But is hoverboard technology possible? I asked Adrienne Appell, spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association: “It’s hard to speculate. Five years before the iPad we didn’t think we had the technology for that. I’ve not seen a product like (the hoverboard), but the toy industry is all about innovation, and once the technology becomes available, I have no doubt we’ll come up with a way.”

Wearable eyeglass phone


Scene: At the dinner table, Marlene McFly (also played by Fox) answers a call with her eyeglass phone.

Status for 2015: Likely available for public.

Google Glass isn’t a phone per se, but an Android-operated computer that connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone. On Tuesday it was put up for sale, at US$1,500 (RM4893), for one day. Google is expected to make Glass available on the consumer market, but it’s unclear when that will happen. Otherwise, customers have been able to sign up to beta-test via Google’s “Glass Explorer Program” (and pay US$1,500 to purchase a prototype).

Food hydrator


Scene: A coaster-size disc of pizza is inserted into a Black & Decker Food Hydrator. Several seconds later, a large pizza emerges hot and ready to serve.

Status for 2015: Exists in some form.

Homaro Cantu is the kitchen science wizard behind Moto, the Chicago temple of molecular gastronomy. He says the technology to dry and rehydrate food already exists, but the technology to make that food taste good is many decades away, if ever.

“There’ll always be a degradation in quality,” Cantu said. “The cell structures and textures change. Technically, it’s here today, but why would you want to pour water on a dried pizza and have it taste like a wet sock? I’d rather have the real thing. It only makes sense for long-distance travel, such as if you’re in a sealed space capsule.”

By-the-second weather forecasting

Scene: During a downpour, Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd) says, “Wait five more seconds!” The rain stops on cue.

Status for 2015: Weather forecasting is increasingly precise but unlikely at that level.

“I don’t think we’ll get to the point where we can get second-by-second street corner forecasting. It just isn’t economically feasible to get that level of precision,” said WGN Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling.

“We’re going to need more computer power to do that. But the strides we’ve made in numerical modelling is absolutely stunning. The goal is to get higher and higher resolution, and we’re going in that direction.”

Flying cars on roadways of air


Scene: Doc Brown, Marty McFly and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Elisabeth Shue) arrive in the year 2015 in their flying DeLorean, travelling along an air expressway.

Status in 2015: Nope.

From Patrick George, senior writer at Jalopnik, the automotive blog: “I don’t think we’ll ever see flying cars as they were portrayed in Back to the Future II, let alone by 2015. A few companies have experimented with aircraft / car hybrids, like the Terrafugia Transition, but none of them seem realistic for mass production and use in a practical sense yet. Also, would buyers really trust flying cars, and would they offer significant advantages over road-going cars besides just being awesome? I hate to be a killjoy, but I’m not sure they would.”

Drone photojournalism

Scene: When Griff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) and his gang get arrested after crashing into the courthouse, a USA Today drone is taking a picture for the newspaper.

Status for 2015: Already exists, gaining popularity.

Drone photography has become prevalent in recent years, so much so that there now exists a group called Professional Society of Drone Journalists. A Shenzhen, China-based company called DJI manufactures consumer grade, remote-control helicopters for aerial photography, with prices starting about US$400 (RM1304).

Future fashion


Scene: The color palette of Hill Valley residents’ apparel is awash in bright neons. Jackets have self-adjusting sleeves and dry automatically. Doc Brown wears a see-through plastic tie, while Marty McFly Sr. sports the “double tie.”

Status for 2015: Yes, if you want to be ironic. Otherwise, no.

Kurt Soller, a style writer and deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek’s Etc. section, says: “While Zemeckis seems to have taken plenty of liberties, the fashion in the movie seems pretty stuck in the ‘80s. Neon had a moment a few years ago, but many of the color trends as we head into 2015 are neutral or pastel, the opposite of neon. Double ties also haven’t made their way into fashion (yet), but I do have to give a small amount of fortune-telling credit to Doc’s transparent tie; many overtly stylish young guys have been rocking the ‘air tie,’ a joke for buttoning your collar button sans neckwear. I suppose that’s the same idea as a see-through tie?”

The Scenery Channel


Scene: Inside the McFly residence, a window television is showing The Scenery Channel, “broadcasting beautiful views 24 hours a day.”

Status for 2015: Already exists.

In 2010, Comcast added The Window Channel to its video-on-demand roster. Now, the North Carolina-based high-definition channel is part of Amazon Prime’s streaming video service, sold on DVD and shown in 18,000 hospital rooms.

Fax as communications hub

Scene: Marty McFly Sr. is fired by Cusco CEO Fujitsu-san via fax.

Status for 2015: On endangered list; replaced by PDF file format.

What Zemeckis got right was the series of interconnected networks with data transferring through fibre optic lines. That the terminals are attached to a printer is hilariously antiquated. – Chicago Tribune/MCT Information Services.

Other 2015 Back To The Future
II
predictions:

1. Mr Fusion home energy reactor, using banana peels and old beer to power the DeLorean.

2. Sleep-inducing alpha rhythm generator used to knock out Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer.

3. Voice-activated remote control for television. (Marty McFly Jr: “I want channels 18, 24, 63, 109, 87 and The Weather Channel.”)

4. Rejuvenation clinic (Doc takes off 30 to 40 years with a face peel, hair repair, blood transfusion, and a spleen and colon replacement).

5. Multiple-screen television displays.

6. Jaws 19 in Holomax 3-D.

7. Self-expanding baseball bats.

8. Little Bug roving garbage disposals.

9. Roll-up television screens.

10. Ceiling-retracting Garden Centre.

11. Paying taxi drivers using thumbprint identification.

12. Handleless doors, accessed using thumbprint identification.

13. Drone dog-walkers.

14. Video telecommunication on big screen televisions.

15. Foot-strapped human transporters (that George McFly hangs upside down from).