Dude, where’s my hoverboard?

Great Scott!!

Did you know it’s just five years until we reach the timelines of Back to the Future II? I remember watching it being amazed at all the cool things we were likely to have in the future. At the time, it was over a quarter of a century away, so of course some of it would come true, wouldn’t it? I’d be flying in cars, wearing auto-fitting Nike trainers, having accurate weather predictions and of course travelling around on hoverboards (despite the fact that I’d obviously be in my early forties by then). It wasn’t some space adventure where we were living on the moon (damn you, Space 1999), it was on Earth, in America and released during a decade of ever-increasing progress. So what big thing that graced BTTFII are we now most likely to see? 3-bloody-D

Yeah, I know 3D isn’t actually new. It’s over sixty years old, actually. But after its heyday in the 50s, a brief comeback in the 80s, now it looks to be THE thing for 2010.
Personally, I’m not convinced. Here’s my some of my experiences of 3D to date:

Sometime in the 80s…Wow! Look at this computer magazine! Some of its pages are in 3D! Let’s put on the flimsy, stupid specs and see…Oh. It looks…different. Some parts of the page stand out slightly. Great. Maybe I’ll put these specs away for another twenty years…

Early 90s…You mean to say I just stare at this book with a silly pattern and I’ll see a jet fighter suddenly appear before my eyes. Yeah right. Is this Magic Eye simply a con? You paid how much for this crap?..Squint, you say? Can’t see it…can’t see it…I think I’m about to go blind…Wow! Where the heck did that come from? Cool. Ok, next page…can’t see it…can’t see it…Ok, I’m bored now.

A little later, Trocadero, Picadilly Circus. I care not that I look a complete dork with a huge headset on, waving my arms in the air at nothing. VR is the future, man. Wow! It moves when I move! It’s a little slow, though…actually, what’s happening? How do you play this game? What do you mean I’m dead?

1995, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, Universal Studios, Florida. At least the specs are better. Cool effects – I’m shrunk. The floor’s actually moving! I can feel the dog’s sneeze on my face! Here come the legions of mice running towards us…why are people screaming in front of me? How the heck did they make us feel their tails against our legs?! Wow.

1997, Terminator ride, Universal Studios, Florida. Hey this 3D effect is slick. And there are real actors on stage. What’s that box opening beside me? Oh shit! That’s a real, full-size, mean-looking endoskelton with a gun just inches away from me! I can feel the heat from its fire! And he has 5 other mates! SkyNet really IS taking over the world! We’re doomed! Where’s the door? I won’t be back, Arnie!

2010, Avatar film, cinema. Ok, the glasses have got a little sillier. Everyone looks like they’ve just been to an NHS optician in 1983. Here comes the animation. Oh wow. Are they computer graphics? It’s so smooth. Done brilliantly. Oh, there’s the 3D effects. The film looks…different. Here come some grenades flying at the screen…ok, why did I just duck?!!

Maybe we’re getting a little closer to that shark that comes out of the Jaws 19 advert and scares poor 1985 Marty shitless for a few seconds. But the way forward for 3D has to be more than just visual effects. The experiences of my Universal Studio films led me to believe you need to tackle the other senses as well. The Terminator endoskeletons weren’t in 3D – they were real robotics – but throw in the mini-movie, 3D, actors and suddenly your brain says this is all real. Cheap but fun effects of 3D objects poking at you work well the first few times, but after that they’re just a gimmick.

So what about the future? Apparently some of the World Cup this year is going to be in 3D. Ok…and what will that bring? Will Maradona be leaping towards us celebrating his team’s late equaliser? Will we be ducking as the German penalty hits the back of our net? Or do we get to explore Beckham’s latest hairstyle from all angles?

If a certain company with half of Skynet’s name has their way, I’m sure in a few years everyone will think 2D is about as modern as the 14″ analogue TV your Gran still refuses to give up. Maybe I’ll even ditch the carbon-hungry plasma for one, though maybe only if ITV4 show repeats of Baywatch in 3D.

For now, though, I’ll settle for the development of a mode of transport that doesn’t turn into the most dangerous, unpredictable vehicle just because a few flakes of the white stuff land on our shores.

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