On October 21, 2015, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc (Christopher Lloyd) will arrive in Hill Valley from 1985, at least per Back to the Future Part II. Screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis had a very different vision for how the world would look a quarter of a century later when the film was released in 1989. For one thing, fax machines were still in every home and flying cars and hoverboards were the dominant forms of transportation. Despite these discrepancies between the imagined future and the reality of today, there were a couple things the movie got right, particularly when it comes to the smart home.
The majority of homes don’t have refrigerators that text them or even Wi-Fi-connected thermostats. But in the next five years and beyond, the smart home market is expected to grow steadily. Lots of big name brands are getting in on the trend, and thanks to Kickstarter, there are even more futuristic devices available now or in the coming months.
The McFlys were all about their Black & Decker Hydrator, a device that could turn a mini pizza into a full-sized, steaming pie of deliciousness. While dehydrated food is definitely available for camping trips and emergency kits, futurists say the hydrator is more akin to the ubiquitous microwave: This kind of portrayal of the future helps us to distinguish between the things we think are going to happen and then [decide] “I want that” or “I don’t want that,” Ross Dawson tells Newsweek. However, something like an in-home freeze dryer, which is sort of the opposite of the hydrator, can be purchased now.
One product that’s set to debut this year is a voice-activated oven/microwave called Maid. Marty’s mother (Lea Thompson) controlled the Hydrator just by talking to it, and the Maid goes beyond that. It has voice-recognition, but you can also use gesture control, or the appliance can set its own cooking time based on the recipe you choose. In this case, reality is far more advanced than fiction.
Another cool feature in the McFlys’ kitchen was the drop-down garden, bursting with grapes and other fruits. While they may not be voice-activated, in-home gardens are definitely available now. Plantui’s Smart Garden even adjusts light and water per plants’ growing schedules, so it’s hard to ruin the tomatoes, chilies, and cucumbers the device is capable of growing. Now, if we could just get them to emerge from the ceiling.
Perhaps the most realistic part of the whole kitchen scene is the imperfect voice control. Marty’s son has to yell at the voice-activated garden before it raises and lowers. Anyone who’s had experience with Siri or Google Now knows that these features definitely aren’t perfect, purple monkey dishwasher.