The future — at least Chicago-born director Robert Zemeckis' idea of the future, as envisioned in 1989 — arrives, in our present space-time continuum, in 553 Earth days. That date, Oct. 21, 2015, is when "Back to the Future Part II" is set, and the movie imagines a world of flying vehicles, hoverboards, drone dog-walkers — and in the future a lot of stuff will float, apparently.

In some cases, Zemeckis' 2015 isn't too far from reality. Other prognostications are just embarrassingly off. Here, we examine how likely the "Back to the Future" future jibes with our actual future. Take away: There's still time for fax machines to make a comeback.


Scene: Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) uses a hoverboard, a skateboard that floats above ground, to escape Griff Tannen's henchmen.

Status for 2015: Not happening.

Early in March, a video surfaced of a supposed tech company called HUVr, in which pro skateboarder Tony Hawk was seen demonstrating a prototype of a hoverboard. Alas, it was a hoax created by comedy website Funny Or Die. But is hoverboard technology possible? I asked Adrienne Appell, spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association: "It's hard to speculate. Five years before the iPad we didn't think we had the technology for that. I've not seen a product like (the hoverboard), but the toy industry is all about innovation, and once the technology becomes available, I have no doubt we'll come up with a way."

Wearable eyeglass phone

Scene: At the dinner table, Marlene McFly (also played by Fox) answers a call with her eyeglass phone.

Status for 2015: Likely available for public.

Google Glass isn't a phone per se, but an Android-operated computer that connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone. On Tuesday it was put up for sale, at $1,500, for one day. Google is expected to make Glass available on the consumer market, but it's unclear when that will happen. Otherwise, customers have been able to sign up to beta-test via Google's "Glass Explorer Program" (and pay $1,500 to purchase a prototype).

Food hydrator

Scene: A coaster-size disc of pizza is inserted into a Black & Decker Food Hydrator. Several seconds later, a large pizza emerges hot and ready to serve.

Status for 2015: Exists in some form.

Homaro Cantu is the kitchen science wizard behind Moto, the Chicago temple of molecular gastronomy. He says the technology to dry and rehydrate food already exists, but the technology to make that food taste good is many decades away, if ever. "There'll always be a degradation in quality," Cantu said. "The cell structures and textures change. Technically, it's here today, but why would you want to pour water on a dried pizza and have it taste like a wet sock? I'd rather have the real thing. It only makes sense for long-distance travel, such as if you're in a sealed space capsule."

By-the-second weather forecasting

Scene: During a downpour, Emmett "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd) says, "Wait five more seconds!" The rain stops on cue.

Status for 2015: Weather forecasting is increasingly precise but unlikely at that level.

"I don't think we'll get to the point where we can get second-by-second street corner forecasting. It just isn't economically feasible to get that level of precision," said WGN Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling. "We're going to need more computer power to do that. But the strides we've made in numerical modeling is absolutely stunning. The goal is to get higher and higher resolution, and we're going in that direction."

Flying cars on roadways of air

Scene: Doc Brown, Marty McFly and Marty's girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Elisabeth Shue) arrive in the year 2015 in their flying DeLorean, traveling along an air expressway.