Great scott!  Is it the future already?

On the 21st October 2015 the World celebrated ‘Back to the Future Day’: the day that Marty McFly and Dr Emmet Brown transported themselves to 2015 a bid to ‘fine tune the future’ in the seminal 1989 film ‘Back to the Future Part II’.

The fictionalised future has, in many ways, come into being, as many of the gadgets and technologies envisioned have actually become commercially available in the film’s thirty year leap in time. Here, ‘the future’ depicted flat screen TV’s, tablets and video calling which are all currently available through Skype and iPhone. The film also featured multipurpose smart glasses that users wore to watch TV or answer calls. In the 21st century, we can use Google Glass and Oculus Rift for similar tasks. Fingerprint recognition is now being used to access buildings (Catalyst tenants use it for 24 hour office access!), and iPhones are even using this as a security feature. And who could forget hover boards?They’re fast becoming the must-have gadget!

Well, Back to the Future Day inspired us to ask our Catalyst Centre tenants: if you were to travel to 2045 in a DeLorean today, what technology would you like to see in use?

Angus Webb, Founder of Dynamon, explained how his dream for 2045 is to be able to travel in fully autonomous cars. Autonomous cars, also known as driverless cars, fulfil the main transportation capabilities of a traditional car but they sense their surroundings with techniques such as radar, GPS and computer vision. Many companies such as Google and Tesla are developing working prototypes, but at this stage, we’re nowhere near the point of them being in full circulation.

Simon Wickes of Cynaptic discussed his wish for ubiquitous 3D printing, in which new products, replacement items and foods will be able to be printed in homes across the globe. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is also called, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The 3D process creates an object by generating successive layers of material until the entire object is produced. Each layer is a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. Such technology already exists but it seems the extent of its capabilities is yet to be fully realised.

Simon also suggested the possibility of biometric implantable drug delivery. He foresees a future whereby nano sensors are embedded into the body so that it can provide real time analytics of infection and disease. Coupled with implantable drug delivery systems, this could be used to support long term medical conditions by automatically releasing medication into the bloodstream. Such technology is already being used for some people with Type 1 diabetes where insulin pumps are an alternative to injections. It delivers a steady flow of short-acting insulin around the clock.

Thank you to Angus and Simon for the insight into what innovative technology they would be pleased to see become mainstream by 2045. We would love to hear about yours – tweet us @USSPCatalyst.

To learn more about what Back to the Future Part II got right and wrong:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology