Back To The Future II still has about a year or so on the clock before we arrive in what it saw as “the future.” And believe it or not, it’s got a pretty good track record, in technological terms. But what about the more “out there” stuff? Could it actually come true, in a year?
VTOL (Vertical Takeoff & Landing) Cars
We need to get specific here because if you want to get anal-retentive, flying cars, technically called roadable aircraft, have been around for decades. What makes the DeLorean unique is its vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL, capability, which realistically flying cars would need to be remotely useful as a replacement for cars. And, in fact, we might actually have them by 2015.
It’s actually being constructed by, who else, DARPA, but it’s not exactly the DeLorean of your dreams. Instead, it’s a drone with heavy freight capabilities that can carry and detach cargo, such as a vehicle, or pods full of supplies. Just to kill your dreams even further, they’re calling it a Transformer when it is clearly not one.
Still, it’s close enough for government work. So it’s plausible that at least the military will have this by 2015.
The idea of being able to just fling random crap into your car and have it run is the dream of anybody dealing with $4 gas. And believe it or not, we’re actually fairly close to a commercial version of this technology, albeit not fusion.
Essentially, we can power our cars and home with specific types of trash thanks to biogas. Add bacteria and stuff they can digest, remove the air, and you get… well, millions of little critters farting in a sealed tank. It’s a bit like being trapped in the men’s room at a Taco Bell.
But it works! And we know it works because of the single most horrifying robot ever conceived of, EATR. EATR is a robot designed to fuel itself with ‘available materials,’ which it would shovel into its maw. EATR does not eat flesh, at least not yet, but any plant matter is fair game.
Fortunately, it’s also really slow and not out of the prototype stage. But the basics are there, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility we’ll see a biogas powered car on the market by the end of 2015. It just won’t fly. But hey, at least the predicted Little Bug roving trash disposal is probably coming true.
In Hill Valley in 2015, you use your thumbprint pretty much everywhere; to pay for taxis, to open doors, and so on. And the technology to do both those things, or at least something similar, is fairly widespread. But is it actually going to be commonplace by 2015?
Probably not, actually, or at least not directly. Biometrics are largely a dud in the consumer market; know anybody who’s used Touch ID on their iPhone lately? And there’s good reason for that; most biometric systems simply aren’t secure enough to be more than an expensive novelty.
That said, only a fool rules out a breakthrough as imaging technology constantly improves. So it may happen; the pieces are there, after all.
There’s also sorts of strange TV technology in Hill Valley; displays you can roll up like a piece of paper, multiscreen TVs, weirdly shaped TVs. And believe it or not, out of all the technology featured in the movie, this is easily the one most likely to be completely true by October 2015.
Why? TV manufacturers are desperate. 4K, despite the hype, is largely selling only in China and if you’re not buying a new TV, TV manufacturers can’t make money. So they’ve been looking into new, strange technologies, no matter what they are. Flexible displays are already starting to become commonplace in phones, as they’re less likely to break. And new technology allows TV companies to essentially make a TV or a display in any shape they want, and surprisingly thin, too.
So, if nothing else, you’ll be able to buy all the TVs you see in the movie, or even better ones, by 2015.
Let’s get this out of the way: No, you cannot yet get a hoverboard. But we do have the basic theory in place, to the point where we’ve got the board hovering. French artist Nils Guadagnin built a replica of the hoverboard that uses a laser system to stay balanced and hovers using a powerful magnetic field.
Two problems: One, it can’t move and two, it can’t bear weight. But, in theory, you could underlay the ground with a magnetic grid and increase the power of the field, using your weight to stabilize the board and keep it from flying away. So, hold out hope, true believers; if they’re willing to reopen the most dangerous water park in the world, somebody is crazy enough to build the hoverboard park.