What did the movie correctly predict about future Artificial Intelligence?

In 1989, the sequel to blockbuster Back to the Future predicted a 2015 with many technology breakthroughs. We all know about the famous correct guesses (wearable tech and alternative fuels) and glaring misses (flying cars and hoverboards).

But what about Artificial Intelligence? How many AI-centric premonitions turned out to be spot on? How accurate were the movie’s creators at prognosticating? Here are 4 predictions Back to the Future II got right (or at least pretty close).


Service Robots

At Cafe 80s, Marty and other diners were waited on by robot waiters made to look like 1980’s celebrities — like Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan. The digital garcons responded to voice commands, recited menus and specials, and delivered items to guests (like Marty’s Pepsi).

How Close Were They?

In Japan, robots are used as coffee machine salesmen, bank tellers, and mobile phone store clerks. According to makers, the robots can understand 70-80% of spontaneous conversations.

Also in Japan? A hotel whose staff is made up almost entirely of robots. The hotel doesn’t even use keys for its rooms. Instead, guests open their doors using another AI-powered technology: facial recognition.


Facial Recognition and Biometrics

Jennifer from the 80’s is given access to her 2015 home via her fingerprints. Doc uses facial recognition to identify and spy on Marty Jr. in 2015.

How Close Were They?

Fingerprints are used to lock and unlock many devices, from smartphones to computers. Purchases using Apple Pay, iTunes, and on Android phones can be verified using fingerprint ID. Facial recognition technology, utilizing sophisticated algorithms and machine learning, is used from casinos to airports to malls to churches … yes, churches … to identify and track people.

And, yes, it’s even used on smartphones and social media to help you tag your photos. Facebook has gotten so good at tagging people, in fact, it can recognize you without even seeing your face. And Microsoft’s Windows 10 can tell identical twins apart.


Interactive Marketing

Marty walks near a billboard for “Jaws 19” and a giant shark hologram is triggered to leap out at him.

How Close Were They?

While we haven’t seen jumping 3D sharks (yet), AI is starting to find its way into marketing. In 2015, a partnership with M&C Saatchi, Clear Channel, and Posterscope launched the “the world’s first ever artificially intelligent poster campaign.” The interactive poster can read the reactions of passersby and evolve to present more enticing ads. From an initial group of ads, over time the poster tests and optimizes text and graphics to find the combinations that resonate most.



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