Tablets and Self-Tying Shoes: Are We Living the Dream of Back to the Future II?
The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series is a fairytale, the end of a curse that began in 1945 with the disgruntled owner of a smelly goat declaring that the team “ain’t gonna win no more” – and they didn’t, not for the next 71 years. The Cubs’ lack of fortune in the postseason was so certain a fictional Chicago win appeared in Back to the Future II as one of the more insane predictions director Robert Zemeckis could think of. Remarkably, he was just one year out from the real Cubs’ win.
Much like Star Trek, Back to the Future II has become a yardstick by which the progress of technology is measured; it’s the Hollywood equivalent of the old phrase, “where’s my flying car?” The fact that the movie had both a flying car and commercial hoverboards – neither of which have made an appearance in the real future – makes that position all the more apt. But, aside from the Cubs’ success, did Marty McFly’s 2015 offer any further insights into our own future?
Tablets & Headsets
Computers have long been the hallmark of an advanced civilization and Back to the Future II’s depiction of tablet computers, motion-based gaming, and Google Glass-style devices was prophetic. A tablet computer used by a taxi driver (and briefly by Doc when he meets Marty outside the clock tower) also featured a fingerprint sensor, a piece of technology that arrived on mobile devices two years ahead of schedule in 2013.
The fact that tablets play a part in the fictional 2015 makes Zemeckis’ omission of the smartphone seem rather odd. Devices like the iPhone are of course ubiquitous in 2017, letting users do everything from watching movies and reading maps to playing bingo; in fact, it’s debatable whether some industries, like online gaming, would have as much of a hold on the world’s collective attention without the smartphone.
For instance, brands like Sun Bingo, a gaming site with 75, 80, and 90 ball bingo games starting every minute, is founded around the convenience of mobile play, with apps available for iOS and Android. Sun Bingo also carries a range of mobile-friendly slots, including games featuring DC superheroes like Superman and Green Lantern, and hosts regular giveaways with up to £500,000 on offer.
Not only that, but casual and free-to-play video games have become such a part of our everyday life, it’s hard to imagine a world without them. Take Supercell’s Clash of Clans, for instance. The freemium strategy title was released back in 2012 for iOS (an Android release followed a year later), and has gone on to dominate the top of the top-grossing app charts; its Finnish developer posted profits of almost $1 billion last year.
Back to the Future envisioned wearable devices taking the form of wraparound glasses with functionality for TV viewing (only two shows at once) and making phone calls. Worn by Marty Jr. and Marlene, the headset seemed to be more of an entertainment device than a life assistant in the mould of Google’s ill-fated Glass. It’s debatable whether or not it elicited the same kind of alarmed response from the populace.
Not having to dress yourself is every lazy person’s dream so Nike’s self-lacing trainers represent something of an ideal for the clothing world. It’s perhaps a bit of a cheat to call the footwear’s inclusion a predictor of future trends though, given that Nike created the HyperAdapt line back in 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of Doc and Marty’s arrival in the future. The brand attached a spicy $720 price tag to the shoe.
Source: Pure Soles on Facebook.
In Back to the Future II, self-lacing shoes are one part of a wider range of “smart” clothes, inclusive of garments that can dry themselves and coats that automatically adjust sleeves to fit the wearer. While perhaps not as well-known as tablet computers, intelligent (or at least sophisticated) clothing isn’t particularly rare in 2017, with hydrophobic t-shirts, bras that double as fitness trackers, and pulse-monitoring socks available to buy online.
The successes out of the way, what did Zemeckis get wrong about the future? The obvious one is automated car refueling. What makes that particular misfire interesting is the fact that the same contraption features in the video game Fallout 4, suggesting that it’s an idea borrowed from Cold War futurists, and one that hasn’t quite been proven pointless yet. It might never be either; Tesla Motors is reportedly working on the technology.
Finally, is the hoverboard still just a pipedream? French artist Nils Guadagnin has created a working device using magnets and lasers but, at present, the technology is a long way from the Back to the Future reality – it’s an art project; it doesn’t work on the road and it can’t support anything heavier than a few grams. Lexus Motors have also thrown money at a similar project, creating a magnetic hoverboard that rides on rails (and emits a fair amount of steam). It’s a good start but there’s probably a few people out there who would happily trade their tablet computer for Back to the Future II‘s most famous contraption.
Featured Image Source: Back to the Future Trilogy on Facebook