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Tech predictions "Back to the Future Part II" got right

In the 1989 sequel to "Back to the Future," Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to this day, October 21, 2015. How does the movie vision of the future look now? In some cases quaint, in others prescient. And when it comes to hoverboards ... we're still trying to keep up.

Garbage-powered cars

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Just as Marty returns from 1955 to his real life in 1985, Doc Brown swoops in to whisk him away again. This time, the DeLorean is souped up with a Mr. Fusion device that converts garbage into energy for the now-flying time machine.

Though carmakers have been focusing more on electricity than banana peels, we've made some headway in trash-as-gas technology. Environmentalists were driving cars powered by used vegetable oil over a decade ago. In a newer twist, Britain last year started running routes on a Bio-Bus with fuel derived from food and human waste (i.e. poop).

But in the fake future as in real life, cars still mostly need to run on gas. Mr. Fusion only powers the flux capacitor and the time circuits.

Universal Pictures

Facial recognition

Universal Pictures

Just after landing, Doc uses facial recognition to spy Marty Jr. on the street -- complete with the green boxes we're now so accustomed to seeing when we take pictures on our smartphones. Today, facial recognition is used constantly -- to tag people in pictures on social media, to look for wanted criminals or shoplifters, even in churches. Facebook has gotten so good at tagging people, it can recognize you without even seeing your face. Microsoft's Windows 10 software can tell identical twins apart.

Auto-lacing shoes

Somehow it's 2015 and we're still tying our own shoes like suckers.

We've got sneakers that can track your child's meanderings and inserts that can monitor your workout, but we've yet to get kicks that actually lace themselves up like the ones Marty Jr. sported in the movie. For its part, Nike did release limited edition replicas back in 2011. The company auctioned off 1,500 pairs of Nike Mags on eBay, with proceeds going to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research.

Excitement started up again recently in the hopes that Nike would come out with power-lacing high tops this month.

We can't really give the movie credit on this one, but we can thank Nike for trying to make our dream a reality.

Immersive 3D graphics

Universal Pictures

Was the holographic "Jaws" that attacked Marty outside a movie theater a sign of things to come? From "Avatar" to Oculus and Google Cardboard to 360-degree video on Facebook and virtual reality in Netflix, we're getting pretty immersed in this whole immersive video thing.

Robot waiters

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At Cafe 80s Marty could order a Pepsi from a robot waiter. Today, robots can sell you coffee, check you into a hotel and even buy an iPhone for you.

And while we're at the counter, kudos to Pepsi for coming out with Pepsi Perfect, the prescient pop served at the futuristically retro restaurant. Wednesday, the company made 6,500 collectible Pepsi Perfect bottles available online for $20.15.

Update: Pepsi said, "PepsiPerfect sold out faster than we can say 1.21 Gigawatts."




If we're being honest with ourselves here, we've been trying since 1989 to keep up with the movie's vision of a hoverboard future (not the other way around). And we kinda made it happen. Kinda. Hoverboards do technically exist now, though we're not anywhere close to actually cruising the streets on one.

Just as the movie predicted, hoverboards don't work over all surfaces. Griff Tannen (grandson of Biff, the enemy from the original film) and his crew know that their hoverboards don't work over water (without extra propulsion). Today's maglev version of the hoverboard -- the Hendo -- only works on a non-magnetic conductive surface, such as a copper sheet.

Another modern take on the personal hovercraft works over any surface, but is ridden over water for safety.

Lexus teased its own hoverboard over the summer.


Universal Pictures

The real difference between the drones in "Back to the Future Part II" and the drones we have right now? In the movie, people don't seem worried about them.

A drone dog walker takes Fido out at night. A drone news camera captures Griff getting hauled off by the police. All normal. But today? Drones are landing on the White House lawn, interfering with firefighting efforts and are the focus of ongoing discussions among regulators.

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Home automation


"Welcome home, Jennifer."

The McFlys' automated home looked bizarre in the late 80s, but it's not so strange anymore. The Internet of Things is in full effect and a lot of that stuff is downright commonplace these days. Keyless doors? Check. Voice command lights? Check. Camera-enabled televisions? Check. Indoor urban garden? Getting there. Instant pizza hydrator ... please?

Thumbprint payments

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When Biff takes a taxi to Hilldale in pursuit of Marty and Doc, he pays his $174.50 fare with a thumbprint. Between Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and Google Wallet, settling the bill with a squeeze of the thumb is an everyday task for many people.

(And with Uber's surge pricing, the $174 cab ride isn't such a fantasy either. Hey-oh!)

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Cubs win the World Series?

October 21, 2015 marks a very important day in cinematic history. Exactly 30 years ago, Marty McFly and Doc Brown blasted to this date in their DeLorean time machine in "Back to the Future Part II." Vladimir Duthiers reports. 06:30

In what may turn out to be the most shockingly prescient detail from the movie, in the 2015 of "Back to the Future," the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. At press time, the Cubbies had a real-life a chance to win the World Series title for the first time in 107 years.

It's not a tech prediction, true, but the Internet went crazy when the team made it into the National League Championship Series. Still, even if they win it won't be a perfect match: In the movie they beat Miami, which didn't get its own MLB team until the Florida Marlins (established four years after the movie was made) became the Miami Marlins in 2012.

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