Where we're going, we don't need roads. But we will need some kneepads and a crash helmet. The hoverboard, immortalized in 1989's Back to the Future II, has been the fictional transportation system most lusted over by sci-fi geeks and extreme sports enthusiasts since Marty McFly took it out for a spin on the mean streets of the future. And now it's real, and we have car makers Lexus to thank for it.
And when I say real, I mean real real. Real as in, you can stand on this thing and ride it across water:
And this isn't just another in the month long teaser-series that Lexus has put out, all carefully crafted cutaways that could be easily faked. Real world, non-Lexus people have given it a go. Gizmodo buddies Jalopnik had the pleasure of actually riding the thing, just in case you still can't believe that something this amazing can exist and work in your lifetime:
How the Lexus Hoverboard Works
Spending a whole day with the Lexus hoverboard, Jalopnik had this to say on how it works, and what it was actually like to attempt to ride the frictionless board:
Lexus actually isn’t really breaking any new ground here with their board. All they’re doing is applying existing technology: superconducting magnetic levitation. If you can supercool a superconductor you can get it to react in predictable but sort of amazing ways to a magnetic field.
So what’s it like to ride? Unbelievably difficult yet at the same time unbelievably cool, both because you’re levitating and because the board is filled with magnets more than 300 degrees below zero.
Those vapour trails you see in the clips? That's the liquid nitrogen cooling system kicking in. Just in case, you know, you thought it couldn't get any metaphorically cooler.
Measuring 92x22x9cm, the board can carry weights of up to 200kg. But mileage will vary as the gap between board and ground is compressed by differing rider weights. As Jalopnik's Robb Holland points out:
When I get on the ride height compresses to a scant one inch.
At one inch the board is still hovering just fine, however, as there are two magnets in each end of the board balancing on it, like walking a tightrope (which apparently I’m not much good at).
As my weight shifts off center, the one-inch ride height simply isn’t enough to prevent the edges of the board from touching the ground. On a device whose primary design is based on being frictionless, adding even the smallest bit of friction is enough to bring the party to a screeching halt (with me being the one doing the screeching).
Now, there still remains some trickery going on here. In order for the superconducting magnetic levitation system to work, 200 metres of magnetic track has had to be placed underneath the skatepark, generating Eddy-currents in a copper surface just under the skatepark's surface. So, even if you could afford what is sure to be an extortionately pricey board if and when it ever became a consumer product, you'd have to take it to specially-made skateparks to enjoy.
But...THE FUTURE! It's a fricking working hoverboard. Whatever it's limitations, it's science fiction made real. You'd have to be dead inside not to be impressed by that. Make sure to head over to Jalopnik for their complete first impressions. [Jalopnik]