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Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads! - Back to the future technology predictions for 2015

by johno


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Having recently been told by my partner that I am turning our daughter into a “Sci-fi freak” with my choice of Friday night movies I thought I would watch the Back to the Future films with her. One of the triggers for this choice was that I had seen various articles on the internet that the second film was based in 2015 (this being the “near” future when the film was made in the 1980’s) and there was some discussion on the Back To The Future technology that had been predicted. It seems that while some of the technology predicted is now commonly available and even surpasses what the film imagined, others are either not widely available or are still very much pipe dreams.

What the movie makers got right…

back to the future predictions

Wearable Tech

In the film there are a few items of wearable technology very similar to the highly anticipated Google Glass. This trend for wearable tech is certainly set to grow over the coming years with Smart Watches, fitness bands and the like all readily available.


I was surprised that these do exist, though as they are based on magnetic technology they will only work on specialist metal ramps and with a price tag of $10,000 are just a little on the expensive side. Still the kid in me would love to have a go!

Games where you are the controller

Do I even need to comment on this with the technology being so widely available? In the film one character comments “You mean you have to use your hands? That’s like a baby’s toy,” when one of the main characters shows them how to use an “antique” arcade game. Consoles such as the Xbox and Xbox One both have the Kinetic accessory allowing for body movement to be translated into gameplay.

Mobile Payments

One scene in the film shows someone collecting money for charity with an EFTPOS terminal that requires only a fingerprint. With various contactless credit cards, fingerprint reading smart phones and payment apps, while not exactly the same as the movie, the ability to take payment from handheld devices, pay to charity over the internet etc., this type of service is commonly in use.

Home Automation

In the film there are scenes with automated houses with voice controlled lighting etc. Xbox One can control your TV by voice command and there are certainly a myriad of technologies around accessing appliances via smart phones such as Google Nest Thermostats, I Kettles, smart light bulbs, robot vacuums and lawn mowers etc. have all increased our ability to automate everyday tasks in the house.

Video Calling

With services like Skype/FaceTime etc. this type of functionality is common place with many TVs allowing for Skype to be used either directly on the TV or where this is not possible you can always use your X-Box.

What the movie makers got wrong (at least for now)…

What Back to the future got wrong

Rubbish as fuel

In the second film the time travelling Delorian is powered by “Mr Fusion” which takes rubbish as fuel. While we are probably a long way of this type of technology we have taken tentative steps along this route with the use of waste cooking oil and bio diesel as fuel.

Powered clothing

There are a few scenes in the film where “smart” clothing is shown. This ranges from jackets that “auto resize” to fit the wearer as well as a jacket that dries itself when wet and trainers that lace themselves. Although Nike are set to release the trainers this year it is a one off so we wont count it.

Holographic Cinema

Again in 2015 of the film Holographic Cinema has been invented. While we make tentative steps along this road with 3D Cinema, holographic movies are some way off.

Flying Cars

In the film our time travelling Delorian can also fly (not sure which is more farfetched, the fact that the Delorian flies or goes 3 films without breaking down). While there are some “flying” cars out there, they are very much the realm of the “nutty scientist” and I think we are a few years away from being able to get into our car and take to the skies to avoid the jams.

Not sure which is more farfetched, the fact that the Delorian flies or goes 3 films without…
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As technology moves on it is interesting to see that a film that was made in the 1980’s did successfully predict technology that would be readily available and widely used, turning science fiction into science fact. While films are primarily there for entertainment they are also a nice way to predict where trends and technology might move in the future. When watching these films the tech within them tend to appeal to things we would like to have and use that make our lives simpler, flying cars, self-cleaning houses etc. and is therefore also a good indicator of future markets and demand. The beauty of Back to the Future 2 was that many of the people who saw the film in the 80’s are still alive today and may even have been influenced or inspired to invent many of the gadgets that we take for granted today.

What will be interesting will be to see where technology goes from here and to see what other movies may or may not predict future trends in technology. The one down side to all of this is despite many of these films predicting technological advances they all keep getting the one gadget we all really want wrong and that of course is a flying car (though not sure I want a Delorian).


by johno on 13/02/2015

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