A hoverboard is a levitating board that one can use for personal transportation. The history of its development is pinned to the films Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.
Hoverboards resemble a skateboard without wheels. In the early 1990s, there were a lot of rumors, fuelled by the director, Robert Zemeckis, that some companies were hoping to leverage the commercial success of the movies by manufacturing the hoverboards. Some managed to produce and marketed hovercraft vehicles as hoverboards. However, these products have never replicated the experience depicted in the movies. Subsequent to the movies, the hoverboard concept has widely been reused by many authors in various forms of media though in a fictional universes.
The First Successful Hover
So far, the Guinness World Records has recognized the term “hoverboard” to be included autonomously powered personal levitators. This came as a result of the May 2015 experience of a successful hover by a Canadian who managed to fly over water a distance of about 200 meters. The Romania-born Canadian inventor, Catalin Alexandru Duru is the new face of hoverboards success and set a Guinness World Record by traveling a distance of at heights up to 200M over a lake, on a self-powered hoverboard. It was his own design and construction that gave him the successes leading to recognition by the Guinness World Records.
Many companies have so far invested in conducting research with aim of utilizing the hoverboard technology and bringing it to reality. With the endless attempts and incorporation of technology in an attempt to succeed, some have companies have managed to demonstrate similar experiences to the ones in the films.
Back in the 1950s, an aircraft manufacturing company, Hiller aircraft, produced the “Flying Platform” which had many similarities to the modern concept of a hover board. Information that got in circulation in 2001 confirmed that Ginger, an invention by Dean Kamen of Hiller Aircraft, was a real Segway human transporter; hence, this invention was a self-balancing two-wheeled electric transportation device.
In 2004, an attempt by Jamie Hyneman and his team to built a makeshift hovercraft was successful. The attempt led to invention and production Hyneman Hoverboard. This hoverboard was made from a surfboard and leafblower. However, despite the success, Jamie’s hoverboard was not very effective.
In 2005, a hoverboard was made by Jason Bradbury for The Gadget Show. He did his production using a wooden board that was levitated using a leafblower. The initial design was not propelled and could not be steered too.
In 2009, the second version by Jason was made which. This was an improvement of the first one as it was propelled/steered by a small jet engine and also contained two more powerful leaf blowers.
In 2011, another success story by French artist Nils Guadagnin filled the air. He created a hovering board that operates on a magnetic repulsion between it and its base. However, the hoverboard could not carry a load. The board had a laser system that ensured stabilization while the electromagnetic system makes the levitation possible.
In October 2011, another production by the Université Paris Diderot in France was observed. The University presented the “Mag Surf”, a superconducting device that can levitate 3 cm above two magnetized repulsing floor rails. As compared to Nil Guadagnin’s earlier production, this was an improvement since the board could carry up to 100 kg.
In March 2014, a company called HUVr also joined the hoverboard limelight and claimed to have developed the technology for hoverboards. They released a video advertising the product on YouTube featuring Tony Hawk, Christopher Lloyd, Moby, and Terell Owens riding on their hoverboards in Los Angeles. However, these videos were considered hoax or jokes due to some special effect failures such as incomplete wire removal in the hoverboards. Funny or Die confirmed that the videos were never a reality and later posted a video featuring Christopher Lloyd “apologizing” for the hoax.
In October 2014, a prototype hoverboard that operates on a magnetic levitation principle was demonstrated by an American inventor Greg Henderson. The hoverboard operates on a similar principle as maglev trains. It just requires a requires a surface of non-ferromagnetic metal such aluminum or copper or aluminum to function.
This hoverboard could carry a load of up to 300 lb while hovering 1inch above the surface. The device was powered by four, with the option of applying spin and thrust to the board under user control.
The prototype received a significant promotion in a campaign on Kickstarter the day of the news coverage, which saw a price of $10,000 for the first ten boards. The New York Times reported that although the board worked, the producer, Greg Henderson was seen to be having no personal interest in skateboarding and that the Kickstarter was “basically a publicity stunt,”
Arx Pax’s, Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA) is the main technology which Henderson was more interested in using for other applications. One of the applications he intended to come up with was an emergency maglev mechanism capable of raising buildings from their foundations. This would help to protect the buildings from earthquakes given that they would be slightly raised from the ground.
In May, 2015, announced that the Romania-born Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru hit the news headlines as he was announced by Guinness World Records after setting a new record. He continuously travelled as a controlling pilot on an autonomously powered hoverboard, travelling over a distance of 200 at heights up to over Lake Ouareau in the province of Quebec, Canada. Duru designed and constructed the hoverboard by himself for one year. Propellers generate its lift, and the pilot controls the craft with his feet.
On 24 June 2015, a video was released by Lexus as part of their “Amazing in Motion” series that purported to show a real hoverboard they developed. Lexus stated that the board operates on liquid-nitrogen-cooled superconductors and permanent magnets. Furthermore, the board was shown moving over a conventional looking concrete skateboard park surface; this led to some skepticism.
Lexus apparently admitted later that it only works on special metallic surfaces and that the surface shown was not simply concrete.
On August 4, 2015, Lexus again revealed all the secrets of the The SLIDE hoverboard with a promotional campaign, which was filmed in Barcelona and starring Ross McGouran, a professional London skateboarder. They released a series of videos that explains the whole technology and the engineering, research, and development process in association with all its partners.
Hoverboard Technology is still on with each producing company trying to get the best of their production that would hit the market. It is a new development that has is becoming the invention of the century with a potential wide and ready market.