The Future is now Back in the Past! Wait. What?!

Back to the future

The internet erupted this past week with Back to the Future (BTTF) tweets, posts, memes and hilarious spoof videos. For those who were not previously fans of the film, by now you definitely know that October 21, 2015 was a very important day for sci-fi movie geeks.

Why? Well, October 21, 2015 marked the date that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) time-travelled to — from 1985 — in the sci-fi comedy Back to the Future II.

The 26-year-old movie has a massive fan following, while the trilogy itself averages a rank of 7.9 on IMDB. Their brief visit to the future, which as of last week is our present, was chock-full of outlandish technologies.

Let’s get the usual flying cars and hoverboards out of the way first, then wrap up BTTF week with a few of the future technologies we saw in the movie and how far away we are from them becoming a reality.


Flying cars — the stuff future dreams are made of. While we obviously don’t have them cheekily flying over Salik gates yet, that could change within the next decade. Cartivator, a voluntary engineering group comprising young members in the automobile industry and backed by major automakers, is developing an affordable flying car that can take off and land vertically. Its goal is to have a manned prototype ready in two years with a full debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. While hoverboards are still a few years away from mass production we might have to bear with those annoying smart balance wheels for a little while longer. Luckily, companies like Lexus, Omni Hoverboards and Hendo Hover are on the case.


While unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) featured briefly in the movie and heavily during the recently concluded Gitex Technology Week, over the past year, drones have just started to find their… feet? Motors? Blades? In the movie, a USA Today reporter drone was the first on the scene of an incident equipped with a camera, while another brief scene shows a drone walking a dog. Today, drones, or quadcopters, are common for both business and recreational use and UAVs could easily be one of the best predictions made by BTTF. While the drone in the movie was reporting for USA Today, I feel we have to add that our video team here at Gulf News has its own DJI drone — though it doesn’t head out to report on the news by itself. However, if you would trust us to walk your dog with our drone, feel free to bring your pet by our office sometime.


Fingerprints and biometrics play an important role in the BTTF movies, especially in the second part when Marty’s girlfriend/future wife uses her fingerprints to open the front door of their 2015 house. While fingerprint door locks have been around for a while now, at an average price of $100 (Dh367) on eBay, another interesting use of that technology during the movie was paying for a cab with just a touch of your finger. While payment solutions through biometric fingerprint systems haven’t actually kicked off yet, only time will tell. If you were thinking about a tech start-up in biometrics and fingerprint security solutions, now’s the time to begin working on that.

Video headsets

In the movie, the younger McFly family members have video headsets strapped on to their faces. Today, virtual reality headsets such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR and Samsung’s Gear VR do much more than what was predicted compared to their proposed BTTF counterpart. While they used these to answer their phone calls and watch TV in the movie, BTTF did get one thing right — technology will feature heavily at the family dinner table and disrupt social interaction.

The Smart Home

The imagined McFly home of 2015 featured smart, voice-controlled televisions, smart appliances and a video phone that offered a wide range of information such as the callers’ personal details, address, likes and dislikes. While smart homes and voice-activated technology have been around for a while now, we have gone a little further with smart home assistants such as the Amazon Echo. As for digging up information on people, we still have to do a little… let’s call it research on social media to find out everything we need to know, and more.

BONUS: Extendable baseball bats

While not exactly a form of technology, a scene in the movie shows McFly about to get his lights knocked out thanks to an extendable baseball bat. If those characters from 1989 travelled to the current 2015 and asked to see something similar, all I can think of showing them are selfie sticks.