Great Scott! That line brings tingles down my spine when I think of what it had predicted that really came through.
October 21, 2015, the date to which Marty McFly and Doc Brown time-travel in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II. While all three movies in the iconic trilogy are beloved by fans, particular attention is going to the second film, which envisioned that by this year we’d have a host of crazy new technologies and products, including hands-free video games and flying cars.
While we haven’t made much progress toward levitating autos, controller-less gaming and this movie aside, there were other several other predictions in the past have indeed come to fruition—and many others are, at least, very close.
Sure, the DeLorean sports car in the Back to the Future movies was a cool time traveller, but it had nothing on the levitating skateboard that Marty McFly – played by Michael J. Fox – hopped on to escape a bunch of thugs. Three decades later, a 40-year-old French inventor proved the scriptwriters’ foresight by hovering across the English Channel. Franky Zapata strapped his boots to a board connected to five small turbine engines (right) and made the 35-kilometre trip from France in 22 minutes. Unlike Marty, Zapata was smart enough to wear a helmet.
2. Personal Drones
Flying drones are ubiquitous in Back to the Future’s 2015, and they’re shown doing everything from walking a dog to capturing images for news organizations. The latter prediction has come true, and while people still walk their dogs the old-fashioned way, drones—widely available to consumers for about $1,000 a pop—have given us new and creative ways to catch fish, deliver dry cleaning, and make people feel awkward at holiday parties.
3. Online shopping
When director Steven Spielberg sat down with several futurists to help shape the near-future world of Minority Report, he and his panel of imaginative experts predicted a level of customer-tailored advertising so similar to what we have now it is scary. Our online shopping habits are tracked by our computers and phones to the point where something we talked about randomly in conversation later manifests itself on our screens with the hopes of soon landing in our shopping carts.
Even cooler – or more worrisome, given your predilection to sci-fi movies from 2002 predicting our present way of life – is the film’s depiction of interactive interfaces that can be manipulated via hand gestures. The tech Tom Cruise uses in the movie to investigate precognitions is very similar to modern motion controllers used on various platforms.
4. Self Driving Cars
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first movie with RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven’s is best remembered by genre fans for its campy one-liners and its bloody, hard R-rated Martian action. But we can’t forget the two pieces of then-fantastic tech that has become a reality we take for granted: Self-driving cars and next-gen security scanners.
The film’s Johnny Cab drivers resemble Google’s self-driving cars, which will hopefully soon become as consumer-friendly as the Prius. The security scanners are already in effect at airports in the form of x-ray scanners, much to the chagrin of some passengers who have to submit to them. While it’s not as sophisticated (or cool) as the movie’s version, it has nonetheless become part of our travel process.
In his futuristic 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury anticipated Bluetooth, describing wireless earphones that allowed for ‘an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk’ to be transmitted through the air. Imagine how thrilled he would have been with a Bluetooth toaster! That was the idea behind the Connected Toaster, which alerted you via smartphone when your toast was done. At $100, this baby cost a lot of bread, which may be why it was discontinued just two years after its launch.
6. The Smart Watch
The Apple Watch lets you chat, play games and watch videos on a device strapped to your wrist. Cool, huh? The Jetsons thought so … over 53 years before the Apple Watch was released.
Nikola Tesla called it! In 1909, the famed electrical engineer told The New York Times, “It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that any individual can carry and operate his own apparatus.” No doubt he was thinking of the Kérastase Hair Coach brush, which measured brushing speed and employed a microphone to listen to your hair, all to compute an overall hair quality score sent to your smartphone. (Alas, it too is gone.)
Writer Arthur C. Clarke ( 2001: A Space Odyssey) saw a world in which no one got lost. In 1956, he wrote that satellites “could make possible a position-finding grid whereby anyone could locate himself by means of a couple of dials on an instrument about the size of a watch.” Clarke didn’t mention that his system might also track another person, such as a criminal. Last year, New York police nabbed a burglar who was wearing a GPS ankle monitor – because he was still on probation for a prior conviction.
Any more cool movie predictions on your list?
Check out my related post: What is the future of Artificial Intelligence?