Back to the Future

Back to the Future

Humankind has never been short of visionary ideas for the future. For - unlike the past - the future is but a blank canvas. It is not yet covered with facts and events, instead it is brim-full of utopian concepts which can effortlessly transcend the technical and physical boundaries as well as the inadequacies of everyday life. Just take a moment to block out reality and imagine a world in tune with you and your ideas - and let your imagination run wild.

Of course, Hollywood movies offer the entire spectrum of futuristic visions. The Science Fiction genre covers everything from an "ideal world" to the horrors of the "brave new world", and each comes equipped with spaceships, flying vehicles, robots, human-machine hybrids, teleportation, time travelling and - not least - the dream (as old as humankind itself) to navigate the limitations of space and time freely. But what came true of the imagined worlds of yore?

A Retrospection based on the example of "Back to the Future"

In Robert Necking's science fiction trilogy, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel 30 years back in time, and 30 years into the future, from the year 1985. 1955 is just like one would imagine (or perhaps even experienced) it to be: the cars, interiors and fashion styles of the times. But the technical innovations the movie projected for the year 2015 give us an insight into how, in 1985, people imagined the future: hovering skateboards, self-tieing shoelaces, size-adapting clothing, 3D holograms, flat-screen wall-panelling - well, say hello the present! Apart from flying cars, most of those ideas have been turned into objects of everyday use, or are at least well on their way to becoming reality.

A view of the future based on the example of LED Wallpaper

Talking of flat-screen wall-panelling: in the movie, it is a standard element of any home in the year 2015. And once again, today this is reflected in real life - in the shape of LED wallpaper. Sufficient reason to have a closer look at this innovative décor style!


The LED Wallpaper created by acclaimed light designer, Ingo Maurer, was developed in cooperation with leading wall solutions brand, Architects Paper (who are currently also manufacturing it). Circuit boards are printed on the front of the paper. Then, hundreds of tiny luminous diodes are manually glued to it. Just like with any other wallpaper, there is a repetitive pattern, in this case consisting of LEDs, which are activated via remote control. Due to the large number of luminous diodes, the light efficiency is very high. The fact that the circuit boards are visible provides the wallpaper with a very unique aesthetic, and simultaneously reveals its functionality to the beholder. Illuminated wallpaper is particularly well-suited for dark environments like bars or clubs as it creates stunning light effects.


In comparison, the LED wallpaper collection designed by artist team, Meystyle, is characterised by a completely different optical effect and functionality. The female twosome's focus lies firmly on the print design of the wallpaper. The LEDs are an additional decorative feature, rather than part of the repeating pattern. Printed electronic elements transfer electricity from inside the wallpaper to the luminous diodes glued to the front. Very bright points light up in regular or irregular intervals.


The bespoke designs can be adapted to the client's wishes. Unlike Maurer's LED wallpaper, the Meystyle take on the concept is more flexible and adaptable and can be used in residential properties as well as, say, boutiques.


The optical fibre wallpaper by Marburger is an example of traditional technology in a new guise. Long parallel strips of light-emitting optical fibres are glued to wallpaper lengths. This creates countless loose fibre ends on ceilings or walls. These are then bundled and connected to a large LED lamp which is integrated into the overall picture. One lamp is sufficient for two strips of wallpaper. The fibres' light efficiency is relatively low, which creates a dimming (rather than a brightening) effect. This means that this type of wallpaper is very suitable for very dark rooms.


The next generation of LED wallpapers is already being developed. The current product development trends focus on organic light-emitting diodes, so-called OLEDs. Similar to regular paints, OLED pastes could potentially be printed onto wallpaper, thus creating large luminous fields - or even screens that can be wallpapered and changed at any time, according to the owner's wishes and at the drop of a hat.

Fiction, visions, chimeras - however absurd they might seem today: they are the stuff the future is made of, be it on the silver screen or in real life. Within the continuous flux of time, they will be reproduced - some in the not so distant, some in the distant future; sometimes because the time is simply not quite right yet, sometimes because the technical requirements cannot yet be met. One thing is certain: Hollywood will not run out of ideas for sinister or optimistic scenarios for the future any time soon. Perhaps it's not history that is repeating itself, but the visions of the future we once had... We can but hope that only the positive ones will come true.

Text: szim

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