'Back to the Future Part II': How Accurate Were Its Predictions of 2015 Technology?

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Update: Last year, on December 9, Yahoo Movies predicted that in 2015, everyone would make lists about what ‘Back to the Future: Part II’ got right and wrong about 2015. Here is our original story about that very subject.

Back in October, a company called Arx Pax launched a Kickstarter to finance development of a new magnetic technology that, among other things, would make possible a semi-functioning version of the hover-boards featured in Back to the Future Part II. Though their invention will only work on certain surfaces, it’s a promising development, especially for fans of the sci-fi time-travel flick who have been patiently waiting for director Robert Zemeckis’ version of the future to arrive.

Back to the Future Part II sends Marty McFly from 1985 to 2015, where everything is automated and super-convenient. Though many have voiced (joking) displeasure that we still don’t have hover-boards, watching the movie today, it’s actually impressive just how many predictions Zemeckis and his team got right on the eve of 2015. Let’s review, shall we?

Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor

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Instead of using dangerous and illegal plutonium to power up his flux reactor, the 2015 version of Dr. Brown simply tosses a few banana peels and some beer into what looks like a Vitamix — and away they fly. Though we’re not exactly dumping our trash into our cars at the moment, scientists are closing in on making a more complex version of that.

Cellulosic ethanol made from organic garbage is a promising biofuel now being developed for mass usage. A company called Fiberight is at the forefront of the technology, turning “rotten vegetables, paper, cardboard, and any other plant-based matter into a steaming mass of grey pulp,” which then becomes fuel.

So, while we’re not quite at the point where we can make that conversion with our cars, you have to give points to the BTTF team for being on the right track.

Flying cars

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Well, this one hasn’t quite happened yet… maybe because our auto companies are mostly just focused on their survival.

Sleep-inducing alpha-rhythm generator

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Doc puts Jennifer to sleep with this scary little invention, which helps wipe out memories, as well. In real life, we can put people to sleep almost instantly, but that generally requires either drugs or hitting the right pressure point, both of which are way less gentle than Doc’s small device.

Self-lacing sneakers

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Earlier this year, Nike announced that it was actually going to manufacture self-lacing high tops, after they started selling the Air Mag design that Marty slips on as he’s trying to blend in with the future. Great news for everyone that hates bending over for more than three seconds at a time!

Self-adjusting and drying jacket

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Clothes were supposed to be way more convenient in 2015 all the way around, but companies just haven’t gotten around to manufacturing jackets that automatically adjust to your size (probably because doing so would cannibalize their business). We don’t have jackets that blow dry themselves, either, but there’s plenty of new water-resistant fabrics, so at least that’s something.

Holographic movies

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True, 3D movies had been around a long time even when Back to the Future Part II hit theaters, but they certainly didn’t resemble the sort of technology we have today. Though we don’t have the sort of tech that creates the illusion of massive sharks attacking us in the street, slipping on 3D glasses can certainly give that illusion. So, half a point!

Soundboard vest

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One of Griff’s thugs plays a chicken noise on his vest to mock Marty, though having a bulky vest that generates sounds is far dopier than anything McFly was wearing. This wouldn’t be very hard to make these days, given our microscopic digital technology, but hopefully no one decides to actually construct it.

Hands-free video games

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Marty shows off his shooting skills to two youngsters (including a tiny Elijah Wood!) at the 80’s Cafe, but they’re none too impressed. “You mean you have to use your hands?” they mock. “That’s like a baby’s toy!”

Though kids these days are still jamming their thumbs and swiping fingers, there are hands-free video games, including the motion sensor utilized in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect.

The Cubs winning the World Series

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The victory by the perennially pathetic team is unexpected even in this version of 2015. The Cubbies still haven’t won a World Series in our reality, and unless they undergo a major roster overhaul, they’ll probably fall short next year, too.

A Miami baseball team

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Marty is less astounded by the Cubs’ win, however, than he is by the fact that it came over a baseball team from Miami. As it would turn out, the city got a team — the Marlins — just a few years after the film was released. But they would never face off in the World Series, because they’re both in the National League.

A remote-controlled camera on a wire

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The camera used by USA Today (seemingly the only news outlet in the movie’s 2015) to cover the crash at City Hall zips above, threaded to a wire strung across the plaza. It is quite reminiscent of the SkyCam, which was invented in 2009 and is now used in many televised sporting events to provide angles impossible by any human-operated camera.

Fingerprint payment

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Maybe Apple engineers have been watching Back to the Future for inspiration, because the thumbprint payment system is pretty similar to (if a bit more advanced than) Apple Pay, which will allow you to pay for items using your phone and fingerprint ID.

Food hydrator

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A tiny Pizza Hut pizza is slipped into the Black & Decker Food Hydrator and, a few seconds later, comes out as a full-size, very delicious-looking pie (the Pizza Hut company actually sent a chef to set to make sure the food looked palatable). We have very convenient dehydrators, but so far, no good way to hydrate food, a fact for which Seamless must be very grateful.

Scenery TV

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If you’re so inclined to watch hours of the same, boring scenery, it is very much available on DVD or YouTube. It’s also a hit program in Norway.

Video conferencing

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Skype, FaceChat and every incredibly complex office conferencing system pretty much nailed this one. Thankfully, people can’t just turn on the screen and catch you unawares — unless they’re hackers.

Multi-screen TV

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Cable was just at its ascent back in 1989, when Back to the Future Part II was released, which must have inspired this big screen with lots of different channels playing at once. Picture-in-picture has been standard on TVs for years, and as any subscriber to NFL Sunday Ticket will tell you, it’s possible to fill a screen with an endless array of different programs. This is where ADD was born.

Video glasses

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Marty Jr. and his sister — also played by Michael J. Fox — spend their time at the dinner table behind a pair of digital glasses, watching TV and answering the phone through their clunky shades. Now, early adapters and weirdos have access to Google Glass, which more or less allows people to do all the same things as those TV glasses, without the sweet style.

Rejuvenation clinic

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Doc rips off his “mask” early in the film, to reveal the results of his trip to a rejuvenation clinic, which replaced his spleen and colon, fixed his wrinkles, and added a few decades to his life. In reality, we’re not there yet, though plenty of shady “pharmaceutical” companies and “life-extension” clinics promise similar results.

Upside down floating “chair”

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Another sweet development for the elderly was this upside-down floating device used by old George McFly (whose face is inexplicably white, despite the fact that all the blood should have rushed to his head). Sadly, this looks a long ways away for us.