Where are we? When are we?

With the one week countdown on for Back to the Future Day, Dani looks at the tech that the film got right.


Next week, a date that was once the subject of much curiosity, constructed into an elaborate fantasy world over a quarter of a century ago, will finally arrive. Of course, October 21st will be for many a normal day, one of the final days before the curtains finally close on our British summer, or just a standard Wednesday in the office. But for many others it signifies much more – the official date that Marty McFly travelled to in Back to the Future: Part II, when he embarked on a journey in a DeLorean time machine.

There are a couple of things about this particular film that I find interesting. Separate to the entertainment value of the film, which for the record, I love. Most significantly, how much has actually been achieved in the miniscule time frame between the film being released, and the couple of decades that take us to present day.

The technologies that featured in the film were dreamt up to be radical, bold and incomprehensible. There were hoverboards, shoes that laced themselves, tablets, video calls and tablet computers.  Huh? Not impressed? You see, back then that list would have stopped people in their tracks and prompted reactions of awe and excitement. But today we’ve seen so much of the technology from the film come to life, it’s forgotten that its origins were once predicted in a film that thought it was making somewhat implausible predictions on future technologies.

Maybe the writers knew something about the impending rate of technology advancements and adoption that the rest of us didn’t, because the world that was created for the film isn’t as far off from the world we live in today as we once would have thought.

Some of the more advanced technologies in the film, such as augmented reality, are on their way to mass adoption. The Microsoft HoloLens for example, while not expected until early 2016, is even more advanced than what was predicted in BTTF II. It’s completely untethered, brings holograms into the physical environment, and to some it is thought to be paving the way for the future of holographic computing. And then there’s auto fitting shoes (in the film they are Nike branded), which have recently been a focus for major sports brand Adidas. The Futurecraft 3D is a running shoe that is made with a 3D-printed midsole, which is tailored to the wearer, down to the exact contour details and precise pressure points of the individual.

And this isn’t forgetting the technologies that featured in the film that are so embedded into our everyday lives that we overlook their significance, and turn a blind eye to the levels of innovation that ultimately delivered them to the doorstep of the masses. Home payments have turned into ‘digital wallet’ services, mobile payments have now been introduced via Apple Pay, voice-controlled systems are being embedded into more and more devices, and smart TVs are ramping up features that far out-do the functionality we saw in the film.

And it doesn’t stop. The technology that is around today is a far cry from what past generations could have imagined, and with great minds, ideas and the resources to put them into practice, the rate of developing these - to be completely frank, incredibly cool technologies - is showing no sign of slowing down. Imagine you could travel Marty-style, to a year far, far in the future, and what technologies does your imagination surround you with? Chances are they could become a reality before the next quarter of a century is up.



Dani-Lee McCarthy

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search