The silver and small screens predicted the future to varying degrees of success. From hoverboards to holograms, analysing how cinematic predictions come true is one of the best things about your favourite scenes. So how’d they go?

Back to the Future II

Ah, Marty McFly — such a tantalising prospect of the future!

That bully-dodging hoverboard stole the show (and our hearts) in the 1989 classic, setting the benchmark for our tech-expectations and creating a universal symbol of how far we have to go.

Back to the Future‘s famous hoverboard scene. Credit: Universal

California start-up Arx Pax have announced the world’s first with the Hendo, road tested by none other than skate legend Tony Hawk himself. Despite a short battery life and 1.5inch elevation, the board has serious potential for cruising the streets – giving those with a rational fear of rocks peace of mind.

Hendo Hoverboard demo with Tony Hawk

What else did the Spielberg team get right? Check out the McFly family’s Virtual Reality headset that looks like a ’80s version of Oculus Rift. Oh, and the video-calling tool used to fire McFly looks suspiciously like a Skype call to me. Coincidence?

Epic video

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is the epitome of a dystopia: a smokey Los Angeles of 2019 that touted genetically modified humans, flying cars and outer space colonies as the norm. Whilst the digital billboards of the film were a fantasy of Scott, these advertising posters have become all too real, dominating the streets of Tokyo, New York, London and Sydney.

Holograms

When R2D2 first projected Princess Leia’s emergency message in Star Wars (1977), this incredible scene seemed to suggest that holograms might be just around the corner. Since then, we’ve seen Tupac take the stage with Snoop Dogg at Coachella, we’ve seen Virtual Band Gorillaz perform to live crowds around the world, and we’ve seen Steven Hawking’s talk at the Sydney Opera House via hologram from his study in Cambridge, UK.

Tupac brought back to life at Coachella music festival

Now, the technology could be coming to you. Chinese tech brand Takee has just released a next-gen smartphone with one of the first practical applications of 3D image tech for consumers. The handset uses four cameras to track eye movements to produce a ‘binocular autostereoscopic’ image, creating an output that appears to the viewer as a 3D image. Whilst we’re not quite at RD2D quality, the technology is on its way.

2001: A Space Odyssey and the threat of AI

There is no doubt that 2001 is one of Stanley Kubrick’s finest films and an eerie dystopian prediction of where some of the most creative minds of the ’70s thought we’d be by now. Luckily for us, the gloomy world of 2001 has yet to come to fruition, though Artificial Intelligence (AI) that supports human endeavour is well on its way to becoming reality. The differences between the HAL 9000 and Apple’s personal assistant SIRI are stark, but as applications of AI become increasingly sophisticated, so too do the callouts for it to be moderated lest we create monsters we can’t control.

Innovation giants, Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk both hold well-publicised opinions on the potential danger posed by AI that can outperform human capacity.

Honorable mentions

We’ve been trying to unlock the future through movies since Fritz Lang got it a little ‘too right’ in 1927’s Metropolis. Here are just a few of those who got it almost scarily accurate…

Will Smith blockbuster i:Robot (based on the short story by sci-fi theorist Isaac Asimov) featured Audi driverless cars. Closing the loop, Audi was recently granted permission for these same cars to trawl the streets of California.

Minority Report (starring a pre-couch jumping Tom Cruise) imagined gesture-controlled computers before they were a reality, jetpack transport and ‘personal advertising’ via your phone. The latter depicted working in a similar way to beacon technology, which, in the present day, leverages a user’s in-phone GPS to deliver targeted messages based on proximity.

And for all their future predictions, one thing The Jetsons got right was a robot vacuum cleaner that the Roomba would be proud of.

Final score:

  • Back to the Future’s Hoverboard is on its way, as well as the VR glasses and self-tying Nikes
  • Blade Runner’s video screens of the future are now commonplace in most cities
  • R2D2’s Holographic communicator (Star Wars) has been replicated by everyone from Steven Hawking to Tupac
  • HAL 9000 or SiRi? The future will tell…
  • i:Robot’s driverless cars have been envisioned (and made legal!) by Audi in 2014
  • Minority Report‘s gesture controls and personal advertising are close on the horizon

Headline GIF Credit: 20th Century Fox

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